50 Years of Art & Design celebrated in pages – curious arts

art & design @ 50, the book project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Department of Art & Design, began in December 2014. It was a collaborative effort by professors Betsy Boone and Sue Colberg, the editor and the designer of the book, respectively. After one year’s effort, this book finally appeared to its audience at the opening reception of the 50th Anniversary Exhibition in the Fine Arts Building (FAB) Gallery on December 10, 2015.

The general format of the book was decided by Boone and Colberg together. It was mainly organized into three parts: the “ Art & Design Timeline,” the “Interview with the Retired Academic Faculty,” and the “Individual Profile of the Academic Faculty, Contract Academic Faculty and the Technical & Administrative Staff.”

As Boone said, “We wanted to show the history of this department over time, and we also wanted to show it today. So we wanted to show both the development and slices of current moments. This is the reason why we decided it should be in three parts.”


When I ask Colberg about how she started working on the design of the book, she said, “Usually, when I design a book, I have all the contents before I start a design plan, so I know exactly what I am working with. In this case, the process was a little bit different… it was more organic than it normally is, because I hadn’t seen all of the images and didn’t know the length of the texts… so I began the book design while I was getting the photos and the various texts at the same time. I wanted to pay tribute to the time when the department began, so the approach to the design and the layout of the book is kind of modernist. I applied the International Style, which began in the 1950s to the 1960s, and then added a little bit of postmodern esthetics, trying to achieve a balance between those things.”

After the general format of the book was decided, Alexandra Duncan and Sarah Flowers, research assistants in the History of Art, Design & Visual Culture (HADVC), contributed their efforts to interviewing retired professors and finding the primary sources for the historical timeline and photos from various sources. Sarah was the research assistant responsible for the timeline. She went through old newspapers, such as The Gateway, The Edmonton Journal and also Folios in the university achieves. She also looked up old university calendars that had photos of the professors. After Sarah photocopied all the primary sources she gathered, she gave them to Boone to edit.

For the interviews, Alexandra completed most of them by phone or in person, except for a few special cases. For example, Boone did the interview with Professor Jeremy Moore later by email because he was not in Edmonton at that time. For other special cases, such as the interviews with Allison Forbes and Norman Yates, these were done in 2010 by Adriana A. Davies, a local historian who knew a great deal about the history of the Department of Art & Design, because Forbes and Yates had passed away before the book project was launched. Most of the conversations were recorded first, and then transcribed into written form.

After the first round of editing, Boone decided whether there was other content that needed to be added. Technicians Louise Asselstine and Don Cooper helped to scan all the photos that came from current and retired faculty. Professor David Cantine and Gallery Manager Blair Brennan also loaned them a number of rarely seen photos of the department in its earlier years.

When asked about the most rewarding part of the book, Colberg thought that it was the enthusiastic response about the design from faculty and staff members. “If I have showcased the creative works and efforts of all the people represented in the book to their satisfaction, then I feel I have done my job properly and that makes me happy.”


Boone said that, “For me, the timeline and the interviews are the parts I like best in the book. I am very happy, especially, that we have the interviews, because if we did not have them, we would lose a lot of history. I was happy that so many people were willing to talk with Alexandra and with me, so that we could learn about what the department was like in its earlier years, and I learned so much about the way the space developed, the way the curriculum developed, and the way the different programs developed during the course of the years…. I like the way the interviews complemented each other, and I like that different people saw the same events from different perspectives. Many of them talked about moving into this building or the creation of the FAB Gallery.”

Copies of Art and Design @ 50 are available at the Department of Art & Design Art Store for $40. The Art Store is located on the lower level of HUB Mall on the U of A campus. It can be accessed from the main (shop) level of HUB Mall by taking the stairs at HUB 8915 down to the lower level. Cash, credit and debit are accepted.

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