RISD Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Baker & Whitehill Student Artists’ Book Contest

detail of pastel-colored tunnel book

RISD printmakers, bookbinders and artists’ book enthusiasts from across campus and beyond came together in late February for the Baker & Whitehill Student Artists’ Book Contest awards ceremony. Organized by Special Collections Librarian Claudia Covert, the competition is now in its 10th year and has garnered just shy of 500 submissions since its launch—artists’ books of all kinds handcrafted by grads and undergrads studying in every department at RISD.

This year’s guest juror was RISD alum, printmaker and bookbinder Ian Cozzens BArch 05, who works with Providence youth as resident artist mentor in printmaking at after-school arts studio New Urban Arts. He was introduced to book arts as an undergraduate student at RISD through a Wintersession class and then by working at the library, building special boxes for fragile books and “nerding out” about binding styles and archival materials with co-workers.

inside spread of artist book by Levcovici
Chinese and English writing on embossed pages
Two entries were awarded American Printing History Association Purchase Prizes: Hands That Held Them by Anik Levcovici (above) and The Abrupt Life of Grass by Ziqi Zhang (below). 

“I spent two mornings reading all of this year’s entries,” Cozzens told the assembled crowd, “and the experience inspired me to make books again—to finish a binding project that was on hold for two years. The overarching themes this year seemed to be bodies, internal organs, rot, decay and death, and there were two books about poop.”

The biggest prize, the Grand Purchase Prize of $500, went to grad Illustration student Sadie Levine MFA 25 IL, who created a “tunnel book” (made with movable, cut-paper panels) called A Return to Nature that explores death and the process of decomposition. The piece (see top photo) features hand-drawn, hand-cut pages that shift to reveal surprise elements. Cozzens describes the book as “pristine yet approachable.”

tiny artist book that opens up into a poster
interior spread featuring white printing on black matte paper
Laurie Whitehill Purchase Prize winners: Part of Me, by senior Maria Hahne (above) and A Destructive Friend by sophomore Natalie Ho (below).

Alice Beckwith, president of the American Printing History Association’s New England chapter, presented two $375 purchase prizes in honor of the contest’s anniversary: Hands That Held Them by Printmaking major Anik Levcovici 24 PR and The Abrupt Life of Grass / 草草一生 by Ziqi Zhang 24 PR. The former offers a series of odes to items of furniture and other family heirlooms the artist recently acquired, and the latter is written in English and Chinese and printed on embossed and hand-stitched paper. Beckwith praised Levcovici’s use of color and was especially enamored of the textured papers that Zhang used.

There were also two Laurie Whitehill Purchase Prizes of $375 each this year. One went to senior Maria Hahne 24 IL for Part of Me, a “four-direction meandering accordion book featuring a list of confessions and a full-size Riso-printed poster.” Cozzens appreciated the connection between the content and the format, which he describes as an attempt to assemble disjointed feelings and ideas into a cohesive whole. The other prize went to Graphic Design sophomore Natalie Ho 26 GD, who used “ordinary office materials” to create A Destructive Friend, a piece about relationships inspired by an episode of Chicago Public Media’s This American Life

“The overarching themes this year seemed to be bodies, internal organs, rot, decay and death.”

Guest juror Ian Cozzens
artist book / board game with hand-painted box
First-year student Ellie Lin took home this year’s Librarian’s Choice Purchase Prize for her book/board game Decay.

This year’s Librarian’s Choice Purchase Prize of $375 went to first-year student Ellie Lin 27 EFS, who made a book/board game called Decay that explores evolution and the decomposition of animals in a world infected by fungus. Cozzens describes the piece as “strange and beautiful.”

Three additional projects earned honorable mentions (and $100 prizes): Belly of the Beast by Olivia Bartsch 26 IL, Limbo by Sofia Schreiber 26 IL and What Are You by Jyot Thind 25 GD. All of the entries are currently on view in the Fleet Library, and the winning books will join the library’s permanent artists’ book collection.

Simone Solondz / photos by Miles Tong 25 FAV
March 14, 2024

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Submissions to the eighth annual Baker & Whitehill Student Artists’ Book Contest beautifully marry craft and content.