Jaffe Center for Book Arts, FAU, Boca Raton, FL
After leaving Ft. Lauderdale, FL, (where, like Miami, they can turn anything/anywhere into a nightclub), I made my way north to Boca Raton, FL (where, like Beverly Hills, there are more luxury cars than there are people). Boca Raton is home to Florida Atlantic University, which has housed the Jaffe Center for Book Arts since 1998 – the JCBA hosts the 6,000 volume Arthur and Mata Jaffe Collection (primarily artist’s books), as well as a letterpress printshop featuring two Vandercooks, a Wesel hand press, a Potter proof press, and an assortment of metal type, wood type, and cuts. I’d been looking forward to this early stop because I have a few works in the Jaffe Collection, and I’d heard great things about Arthur Jaffe – that he was a tireless advocate for book arts and print, that he was spirited and joyful, full of humor and life. Unfortunately, I landed at a bittersweet time – just over a week after 93 year old Arthur passed away peacefully in his sleep. From what I’m told, he asked for a bowl of chocolate ice cream around 8-9pm, then quietly went to bed. I can’t think of a better way to go.
Upon my arrival I was greeted by Director John Cutrone, who humbly showed me around and then explained that the task for the rest of the day was to erect the “Contemplation Tent” that Arthur had requested in the event of his passing. The Contemplation Tent consisted of two dozen aluminum poles and 17 hand-sewn quilts – once the framework is put in place, the quilts are hung from the poles, creating a soft room that features a rolling landscape of myriad colors on the interior. The exterior is adorned with a more nebulous landscape, punctuated by the gesturing figures of people headed into the small slit that acts as a door. Only one instruction adorns the tent: Please Enter One at a Time. And when I say there’s only one instruction, I mean it. John and I, as well as Office Manager Eric Bush, along with students Brooke, Will, Charles, and Ilana, spent about 2 hours putting the small tent up, using logic to discern where the pieces went. Apparently Arthur wanted us to not only contemplate inside the tent once it was up, he wanted us to contemplate prior to that, and work as a team. And that we did. Until we realized it would probably have to come apart to be moved into the appropriate room.
Either way, I was honored to be a part of something that Arthur thought would be an integral part of his memorial, and it helped me learn a lot about the key people that keep JCBA running.
The following days I spent cleaning the shop, printing, and on Thursday, Feburary 5th, I gave a presentation about the history of itinerant printing and the early stages of the TIP project. We moved from the library to the printshop later in the evening, and I guided participants through the printing process, adding the last color to a 12 x 18 poster that featured maps of Boca Raton, clip art cuts, and dozens of signatures culled from local business letters. I loved that I was able to find things in the collection at JCBA that were representative of Boca Raton and Florida without being ham-handed about it.
In addition to printing, I got to experience JCBA’s “Real Mail Fridays,” an event staged in the late afternoon once a month on Friday – all manner of raw materials are provided to facilitate letter-writing, postcard making, and any other mode of correspondence art. Too perfect for the TIP project!
I was honored to spend time at the JCBA, and although I never got to meet the man himself, I hope that he’d appreciate the project’s spirit of adventure coupled with its desire to make printing and book arts a central component of community building.
Huge thanks to the entire team at JCBA: John, Eric, Will, Brooke, Ilana, Charles, and Seth. Check out the pics below to see more of the space, and get a peek of the fantastic Edward Gorey exhibition that was up while I was there – John explained to me that the show’s timeline was extended after Arthur’s passing because Gorey was one of his favorites.