Mills College's Book Art Program Rescued by Influx of Funds

Book Arts minors Selena Matranga and Grace Forrest, and Book Arts Professor Kathleen Walkup (Cy Musiker)

Amid a summer of financial troubles, Mills College has found an unexpected benefactor.

The Oakland college announced a $2 million donation to its Book Art program on Tuesday — one of the largest within the field. The gift to the school’s Book Art program will establish the Lovelace Family Chair in Book Art, the first endowed faculty position in the program.

It comes after the program’s impending closure was announced in an email late 2015. Pushback from students, faculty and community members alike, documented on a Tumblr blog dedicated to the preservation of the program, “helped to inspire the establishment of this chair,” according to a press release issued by the college. Its two joint donors wish to remain anonymous.

Mills is an early pioneer in the formal study of book art, offering courses in the field since the 1930s. But the program’s possible termination comes in light of Mills’ recent budgetary concerns, including a $9 million operating deficit on a total budget of $57 million and declining admission rates. Twelve faculty and staff members, five of whom were tenured, were dismissed in July after the school officially declared “financial emergency.”

Book art professor Kathleen Walkup will be the inaugural Lovelace chairperson. She currently serves as the director of the college’s Book Art program.

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“I hope that this will help send a message to the administration and the trustees to the college  that while they’re trying to reconfigure the direction of the college, this deep history and connection with the arts really comes through with this kind of donation,” said Walkup. “This is where Mills has its strength, its reputation.”

*It should be noted that jazz icon and Mills faculty member Roscoe Mitchell, whose tenure as the Darius Milhaud Chair in Composition was reported at risk of termination back in June by KQED, will continue to hold his appointment.

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