Austin Book Arts Center is On the Move

Amanda Stevenson with century-old, pedal-propelled printing press still in use. (author photos)

I recently visited the Austin Book Arts Center to discuss the organization and its upcoming fundraiser with Executive Director Amanda Stevenson and Board Chair Mary Baughman.

The nonprofit center exists to “engage people in the art of the book,” Baughman said, detailing that this encompasses a myriad of subjects, including printing, bookbinding, papermaking, typography, book history, and book design.

The center offers classes for kids and adults — 40 in all, this fall. Some of their upcoming classes include making kids’ board books, book repair, making an artist’s portfolio, and Japanese bookbinding. The center also rents out studio space for people who want to use the equipment to work on their own projects.

This Thursday, September 13, the center will hold a kickoff event for their fundraising campaign to fund their move to a new location. The building that currently houses the center, Flatbed Press on East MLK Blvd., has been sold and all the tenants are obliged to move out.

“Having our start here [at Flatbed] was very advantageous,” Stevenson said.

Baughman shows me one of the many cases of type.

Baughman agreed. “We love it here, being part of the group.” The Flatbed building houses several art galleries, in addition to the Austin Book Arts Center.

Born in 2015, the nonprofit grew out of the Austin Book Workers organization that had been around since the 1980s. When it became ABAC in 2015, it rented studio space for the first time and acquired non-profit status from the IRS.

The center’s administrative staff are volunteers, while their course teachers — highly accomplished artisans — are paid.

The classes make use of the center’s multiple printing presses, cases of type, and machines from various eras, most donated and some purchased. Machines of every description are shoehorned into every corner and hallway of the center’s 800 square feet.

The group would like to find a larger space, perhaps 1,000 square feet, Baughman said. “We’d love it if somebody would rent us space for a non-profit at below market rate,” she added.

This Thursday’s fundraiser, dubbed “I Saw the Future,” runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at Austin’s Central Library. Tickets range from $50 upward.

The event will feature Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, the two UT psychology professors behind KUT’s weekly program “Two Guys on Your Head.” The duo will talk about “Your Brain on Books.” Additionally, the event will feature music from harpist Delaine Fedson Leonard, a silent auction, and a cash bar.

Published by Rebecca Johnson

Writer and editor covering arts and culture in Austin, Texas and beyond.

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