Ruth E. Edwards
Ruth Edwina Edwards was not only a trail blazer in the book arts, but a kindly eye and mentor to so many throughout her life, from the dozens of classes she taught at CBA, to her workshops with Bronx youth through the Scholarship Incentive Awards Program, which she founded. Her life-long love of the book arts began in 1998 when she took a bookbinding course at Center for Book Arts. Spending numerous hours in the CBA studios on 626 Broadway, Edwards learned a craft that would later become a central element in her work as a community builder and mentor.
Only a year after joining the Board of Directors at Center for Book Arts (2001-2004), Edwards founded a collective, Books in Black, of individual African Americans and others from the African diaspora who are “ordinary people who make extraordinary books.” She paved the way for the work of Black book makers with this collective by curating and exhibiting work in The First One Who…! at CBA in 2004 in which, quoting from Ruth’s Wikipedia page, “Seventeen Blacks in Book artists exhibited 32 structural books. Books profiled artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, singers Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, comedian Moms Mabley, businessman Ernest Stanley O’Neal, and other newsworthy ‘firsts.'” Check out our archive of this exhibition below for more information.
The accordion book (pictured above), titled President Obama’s to Do List which she made with her students was acquired by the Smithsonian. Edwards created and published many unique and limited-edition artists’ books of various structures such as accordion, miniature, eight-page single sheet, pop-up, scrolls, and star or carousel books under her artist name Ruth·ology. Her work Black Rodeo, a star book structure with a leather cover was included in the 2007 exhibit “We, Too, Are Book Artists.” The exhibition, curated by Amos Kennedy for the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, was the “first large-scale exhibit of African-American book art.”
We are so grateful to have worked so closely with Edwards and to have witnessed her process, practice, and dedication to Black-centered book art.