University of Southern Maine alumna Kate Cheney Chappell (’83) and co-founder of Tom’s of Maine, is also an accomplished artist and poet. She studied book arts under well-known Maine book artist and USM faculty member Rebecca Goodale.
In an age where most people buy mass-produced books at chain stores and an increasing number of people shop for their books online to read on Amazon’s Kindle electronic reading device, one would think the days of holding and opening a hand-bound book are over. Except, of course, for a growing contingent of book artists who create works of art as limited edition, hand-printed books or unique handmade volumes. An art form that reaches back to medieval bookbinding and letterpress tradition and forward to installation art and novel constructions, book arts cover a wide spectrum.
A professional artist, Chappell’s love of creating handmade books was something she wanted to share with a generous gift that established The Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts at USM, naming Goodale as program coordinator. The Center for Book Arts celebrates the innovative and engaging nature of book arts through lectures and workshops by national and regional book artists, and through exhibits of artists’ books.
Studio space for book arts workshops in the Wishcamper Center is named in memory of Chappell’s mother, Mary Pope Cheney, an artist and advocate for the visually impaired, and her aunt Elizabeth Pope, chair of the English Department at Mills College and author of historical fiction for young adults. The Wishcamper Center houses USM’s Muskie School of Public Service and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
“When I came to USM in the early 1980’s, I found fellow pilgrims---artists who were my classmates, and artists who were my teachers. They gave me encouragement and excellent guidance,” Chappell said. “I needed to find my own path when I came to USM. I needed to make the pilgrimage I began in my youth: to be an artist.”
“I am indebted to my art teachers at USM. They helped me become the full-time artist I am today. Today, I have my own studio in Westbrook; I have been a leader of the Women Artists of Monhegan Island and a member of Peregrine Press. I have had solo shows, most recently at the New Britain Museum of American Art in CT, and was part of the Collage show this year at the Portland Museum,” she continued. “My life as a professional artist began here, 30 years ago. I am very happy that my gift can help students today enjoy more functional, updated space. Knowing that it is in good repair, I have no doubt that they can go a long way in their ‘pilgrim sandals.’”