School of Art Alumni Among Organizers of New Pittsburgh Art Book Fair, Taking Place this Weekend

Posted on September 5, 2023

Pittsburgh is getting its own art book fair thanks to the work of a group of local artists and arts organizers, including two School of Art alumni. The inaugural edition of the Pittsburgh Art Book Fair (PABF), which is free and open to the public, takes place this Saturday and Sunday at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

The PABF compliments established annual events, like the Pittsburgh Zine Fair or the Silver Eye Book Fair, says Jacquelyn Johnson, a co-organizer and School of Art BFA alum. This fair aims to bring together artists and publishers working across different formats, from more informal, self-printed zines to hard-bound books, all in one room.

The fair’s 59 vendors include individual artists, artist collectives, publishers, and vintage sellers. Vendors will present a wide variety of types of publications with the requirement that at least 70 percent must be “bound materials” as opposed to flat sheets, t-shirts, or other printed items. Publications will be available at a wide variety of price points (including a free table), allowing everyone an opportunity to collect artwork and to support independent artists and publishers.

“There’s a lot of artist publishing happening in Pittsburgh, but we’ve never had an event like this before,” says Mary Tremonte, another co-organizer and School of Art BHA alum. The fair will showcase the strength of artist publishing in Pittsburgh while creating opportunities for artistic exchange between locals and exhibitors from elsewhere in the United States.

As a printmaker herself, Tremonte has traveled to other art book fairs around the country, which have been important events to both sell her work and build community, she says. Her collective, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, which focuses on creating work for social justice, will also have a table at the Pittsburgh Art Book Fair.

The PABF includes many CMU-affiliated vendors including: e.l.Hymns, a small press run by Professors Imin Yeh and Paul Mullins; Flotilla Flotilla, a project of Professor Kim Beck; PULLPROOF Studio, a Pittsburgh-based printshop founded by CMU alumni; alumni Iz Horgan & Sam Horgan; Tree News, an artist newsletter by MFA alumni Erin Mallea and Paper Buck; Ross Mantle, a CMU professor of Photography; and students Sarah Cho and Shelly Zhang. In addition, the School of Art will have its own table with work from current students.

The fair will also include a robust programming schedule, featuring a series of conversations and hands-on opportunities for visitors to create their own artist books. One programming highlight will be CMU Librarian Jill Chisnell and her zine-making cart, which will be set up on Saturday in the Hall of Architecture for anyone to try their hand at making a zine. Another programming highlight is a live taping of the Paper Cuts, a podcast by School of Art BFA alum Christopher Kardambikis that examines the contemporary world of zines and DIY publishing.

Both Tremonte and Johnson describe art books as a unique medium. For Johnson, books were her first entry point into experiencing art through her childhood visits to Carnegie Libraries. As opposed to a museum, “books allow you to experience art at your own pace to easily return to a section later.”

“Books are a way of experiencing an artwork that’s very intimate,” says Tremonte, “It lends itself to containing a lot of content and exploring ideas in depth.”

The Pittsburgh Art Book Fair is co-presented by the Carnegie Museum of Art and is co-directed by Caroline Kern, Chas Wagner, Emma Honcharski, Mary Tremonte, and Jacquelyn Johnson. The fair is open from 10:00 to 5:00 PM on both Saturday and Sunday. More details are on their website.