Member Month 2023: Meet the Book Arts Team

Allow us to reintroduce ourselves!

Over the past year or so there have been a few changes made at Book Arts; with those changes came a few new faces! Our small, but mighty staff set the foundation for maintaining the collaborative, innovative spirit that makes Book Arts what it is.

This month we are hosting our annual membership drive: we are actively seeking new & returning members this month (and every month). If you’re not already a member, consider joining our growing community of artists, makers & creatively curious folks. This blog post is a way for you to get to know the Book Arts Team before joining!

Executive Director: Laura McGough

Laura joined the Book Arts team as the executive director in February of 2022. Holding a PhD from the Department of Media Studies at the University at Buffalo and an M.A. from New York University, McGough comes to Book Arts with a strong background of arts programming, grants administration, and curatorial positions across arts organizations throughout the US and Canada, including Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Herter Art Gallery at UMass Amherst. 

How does Book Arts support local artists, and what is done to help uphold the principle of cultivating a broad and diverse artistic community?

Book Arts supports local artists in a variety of ways – exhibition and residency opportunities; onsite and online stores which offer a range of affordable commissioned print-based works; workshops taught by skilled local artists; poetry readings, artist talks and vending opportunities at community events; and access to our amazing resources via open studio rentals. While  our organization focuses on printmaking and the art of the book, we also employ a wide definition of  this area of practice.  In the past year, our exhibition program has included collage, print on 16mm film, rise print and an exploration of paper at the intersection of drawing, letterpress and folding techniques. Artists participating in our exhibition, residency and commissioned programs reflect WNY’s richly diverse communities, both urban and rural.

What does innovation mean to you, and how does that influence how you approach your role at Book Arts?

I see innovation as intricately tied to experimentation. Providing artists with the time, space, and tools to experiment through residencies, for example, has yielded a body of amazing new work which has, in turn, lead to resident artists developing new workshops, creating new work for our commissioned store. That spirit of experimentation is also part of our exhibition program over the past year, which has focused on the intersection of printmaking and film, media archeology as well as collage, letterpress, and woodcut. Bringing a diversity of voices and practices into our space has yielded a range of exciting new approaches to how we serve artists.

-Laura McGough, Executive Director 

Education Director: Rosemary Williams

Starting as a Book Arts Intern, Rosemary quickly fell in love with the place and is grateful to continue to be a part of such a vibrant and quirky community art space. At Book Arts, Rosemary leads our team of Teaching Artists, coordinating with educators, artists, students and the community to engage learners of all ages and abilities with the curiosities of all things print & paper. She holds a BFA in Fine Arts with a concentration in Printmaking from the University at Buffalo, and has participated in a variety of  Teaching Artist trainings, including programs led by Arts for Learning WNY and the Lincoln Center. 

What would you say is the cultural significance of preserving the book-related arts?

Context is important and history is an incredible tool – we learn from and reference what’s been done in the past, and build upon that understanding to create new innovative work. By creating books & prints at Book Arts, we can understand the hands-on history of these objects (stepping into our Studio is a timewarp!), and utilize our gained knowledge and perspective to create new artworks like a kind-worded card, or a poster with something important to say.

What does innovation mean to you, and how does that influence how you approach your role at Book Arts?

In the Book Arts Studio makers of all ages are interested in creating by hand – a letterpress print, or a handmade book… I work with learners/makers/artists to approach a project from multiple angles, making the craft accessible and inclusive, which often creates new and surprising results – that’s where there’s true innovation! 

-Rosemary Williams, Education Director

Ruby Merritt

Ruby Merritt

Lead Teaching Artist

Ruby Merritt is a Western New York, Buffalo based professional artist, adjunct professor and teaching artist. Merritt received her BFA, concentrating in Drawing and Painting from the State University of New York at New Paltz and a Masters of Fine Arts at the University at Buffalo, in 2013.

A familiar niche for Merritt’s artwork is the contemporary ‘art and science’ or ‘bio-art’ realm. Producing work that is process based, using earth cycles, such as rock and water cycles, to manipulate and nurture her work. Printmaking, photography and bookmaking have become an incipient nesting ground for displaying and capturing the shapes and patterns mimicking and documenting nature’s visual wonder

How did you become involved with Book Arts?

I heard chatter about a space downtown that had multiple printing abilities, exhibition space, and that they use a steam roller to make prints at an outdoor festival every year, and I was awe-struck and determined to check it out. With my curious foot in the door, I noticed I knew some of the staff from my MFA studies at UB, so delightful to see familiar faces a few years after graduation. Book Arts then approached me in late 2017 and asked if I was interested in being a teaching artist for the center, specifically working with a grant-funded program that would have me as WNY BOOK ARTS bringing book arts, printing, and learning to other community centers of the western new york where the arts are underserved. This offer came six months after I suddenly lost my mother, Sue; who gave me the confidence and support to make a living as an artist and a teacher. Working with the community and families helped me grieve in a positive way, and let me reminisce about the two of us putting our love and energy into the arts in our community.

What’s the most rewarding part of being a teaching artist? What do you hope is the takeaway for workshop participants?

The most rewarding part of being a teaching artist is the variety of places and people I get to teach. I get to bring my studio art practice into my instructions, create a flow of lessons plans and make the objects we create have a purpose beyond something to hang on the wall (or the fridge) but use again, like designing a planner, or printing on cards to mail to friends and familu. The art objects have a life beyond making them during class. I hope they take away the whole experience and want to teach and make art objects with their friends and family. I imagine a student of mine showing their sleep over party how to make dragon folds and then wearing them for their night of fun! Like where the wild things are but they have book arts projects to march around with!

Ruby Merritt

Santiago Andres Barajas Castillo

Santiago Andres Barajas Castillo

Studio Assistant

Santiago first came to Buffalo about 2 years ago. His first time exploring the city by himself he found Book Arts through the Summer of Bookfest, a series of days in which he made a handy book, printed on a shirt, and bought a useful tote bag. Although hardly an artist himself, he enjoys any type of hands-on work and was keen on seeing if he could volunteer there. He takes joy in being part of the workshop process and seeing the various creative wonders of his community made here.  He is currently enrolled at ECC and can often be found volunteering at other amazing spots in Western New York

How did you become involved with Book Arts?

I found out about it through the summer of book fest workshops that were held on the summer of 2021 and was interested in volunteering after taking a few of them.

What do you find the most interesting about working in the studio space? In what ways has the space inspired you?

How the creative space is in constant flux. Even though the materials and resources remain the same, the varying talents and skills of the residents who come through here always manage to come up with vastly different and unique art styles and works that suit their vision, and I think it’s really neat to see it come to fruition. It has really pushed me to explore other artistic mediums throughout buffalo that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve met several amazing individuals who have introduced me to various fields, such as being involved in the punk/folk music scene, learning how to make poetry in workshops, graphic design and so much more.
Santiago Andres Barajas Castillo

Sweety Kabra

Sweety Kabra

Shop Assistant

Sweety Kabra started at Book Arts as a volunteer, assisting teaching artists conduct workshops, and eventually went on to lead workshops of her own! Sweety is passionate about paper craft and learning new art, and likes that Book Arts offers a space to create, teach art, and make a difference. Sweety also loves to do Henna, and also runs her own small business, WNY Henna Designs, which combines her love of art with the traditions her home country of India. In her role as Shop Assistant, you’ll find Sweety behind the register assisting customers, or behind the scenes helping to manage our intentory of handmade & artists’ merchandise. 

How did you become involved with Book Arts?

I started as a volunteer at Book Arts Center and eventually started to help out as an assistant to teaching artists for workshops and classes. And with time I lead my own workshops as a Teaching Artist conducting many classes and workshops. I’m a part of Book Arts now as an employee as well as teaching artist.

From your perspective, what are the benefits of local artists to having a space like Book Arts to showcase their work? What do you enjoy about being a consignment artist here?

 In my experience it was great to have a space like Book Arts Center as an Art enthusiast and teacher. It promotes local artists like me to make more art and have a place to display and reach out to the amazing Buffalo community. I have been a consignment artist as well and got such a wonderful chance to create art work and display it at the Book Arts Center. Overall, the center provides an amazing opportunity to the local artists and art goers to trade art and create more art.

Sweety Kabra

Demyia Browning

Demyia Browning

Communications and Shop Assistant

Demyia Browning is originally from Las Vegas, NV and attended the College of Southern Nevada as a theatre major. An active member of the artistic community in WNY, after being referred to and reading about Book Arts’ mission statement and history, Demyia wanted nothing more than to join the team. As Shop & Communications assistant, they help with running the Book Arts shop of artist & handmade goods, and promotion of a variety of the organization’s classes, exhibitions and events.

And that’s the team! Stop by during our open hours Wednesday-Friday 11 am – 5 pm, Saturday 10 am – 2 pm., and we’ll be able to answer any questions you may have about joining the fold!

Your annual membership donation directly supports our 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and furthers our mission! Memberships are crucial to the growth of book arts in our community, and support our arts education outreach & artist opportunities. 

A few member perks include:

  • Discounted classes and events

  • Access to our letterpress and screen print studio

  • Display your art work at at the members show