Kate Cheney Chappell 83 Center for Book Arts

USM Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Art to Present Traveling Exhibition, “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”

January 16, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine – The University of Southern Maine (USM) Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Art (KCC’83CBA) will present “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here,” a traveling exhibition of artists’ books opening this month and continuing through May, in the Unum Great Reading Room on the seventh floor of the Glickman Family Library on the USM Portland campus.

“Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” is part of a traveling exhibition of more than 260 artists’ books and broadsides made by international artists from 24 countries. There will be between 50-100 pieces displayed at USM. The books and broadsides in the exhibit were made in response to the March 5, 2007 car bomb that exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street, the ancient street of booksellers, poets and writers, located at the literary and cultural heart of Baghdad, Iraq. 

The details of the exhibition are:

  • “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here,” Jan. 27-May 1, 2014; 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Friday, 2 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday; Unum Great Reading Room, 7th Floor, Glickman Family Library, USM Portland campus, 314 Forest Ave., Portland; free and open to the public. 

The exhibition, which is curated by Beau Beausoleil, San Francisco-based poet and bookseller and founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, and Sarah Bodman, England-based book artist, aims to bear witness to the events on Al-Mutanabbi Street and to collectively affirm that the right to a free exchange of ideas and culture in public space is never to be taken for granted.

“I am excited that USM's Center for Book Arts is able to bring this international exhibition to northern New England,” said Rebecca Goodale, coordinator of the KCC’83CBA. “This will be an opportunity for students and community members from the northeast to visit what is an extraordinary collection of books and broadsides made by more than 100 artists from across the globe.  The voices of these artists have been and will be heard as these works travel in multiple exhibitions around the world. 

There will be a panel discussion and opening reception for the exhibition, 4 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the Unum Great Reading Room of the Glickman Family Library on the USM Portland campus. Panelists include Jesseca Ferguson, Anna Wexler and Stephanie Stigliano, each of whom is a Boston-area artist and participant in the exhibition. The panel discussion and opening reception are free and open to the public.

Beausoleil founded the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition in 2007. After completing the “Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project,” a collection of 130 broadsides created by letterpress printers, he extended a call for more work from book artists. In “An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street – A Call to Book Artists,” Beausoleil asked for books that “reflect both the strength and fragility of books, but also show the endurance of the idea within them,” and for work that “reflects both the targeted attack on this ‘street of booksellers’ as well as the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.”

The “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” exhibition was launched in 2012 and will continue to tour throughout the U.S. and internationally through 2015. One complete set of 130 artist responses will be donated to the Iraqi National Library in Baghdad.