Steven McCarthy Wins the 2017 Minnesota Book Artist Award

S.McCarthyGraphic design professor Steven McCarthy receives the 2017 Minnesota Book Artist Award for his Wee Go Library project – a mobile collection of 22 altered books found in Little Free Libraries throughout the Twin Cities.

December 9, 2016, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce Steven McCarthy as the winner of the 2017 Minnesota Book Artist Award for his Wee Go Library project. Sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group, this annual award is presented by the Minnesota Book Awards and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), and recognizes a Minnesota book artist or book artist collaborative group for excellence of a new artistic work. Winners also show demonstrated proficiency and quality in the book arts through three pieces of supporting previous work, as well as an ongoing commitment and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community.

McCarthy’s award-winning piece is a mobile display unit for 22 altered books selected from Little Free Libraries throughout the Twin Cities. Using various techniques – collage, rebinding, cutting, folding, tearing, gluing – the artist altered the books to create a collection in which used items are reborn as a part of the larger library narrative. Each book is sourced to its donor library with a small pamphlet that has a pin-pointed map and photos of the library structure and sponsoring house. The entire collection is beautifully housed in a custom-built oak and pine display case with felt-lined drawers to hold each of McCarthy’s whimsical creations.

Members of the award committee praised the project as “a play on books, narratives, and libraries,” saying that it “transforms existing text for an experience that is at once random and intentional.”

Another committee member said that McCarthy “creates a personal connection through carefully curated collections of texts; …the cabinetry, layout, and variation of the treatment all fit together to provide the viewer/reader with a unique journey that reveals the true potential of each book itself.”

McCarthy is a professor of graphic design at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. His long-standing interest in theories of design authorship – as both scholar and practitioner – has led to lectures, exhibits, publications and grant-funded research on six continents. His book on the topic, The Designer As… Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating was published in 2013 by BIS, Amsterdam. McCarthy has been in more than 125 juried and invitational exhibitions and his artist’s books are in prestigious collections. He serves on the board of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Visit his website:

A retrospective exhibition celebrating McCarthy’s work will be on display January 20 – March 26 in the Cowles Literary Commons on the second floor of the Open Book building (1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis). A reception and artist presentation will take place Friday, February 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. McCarthy will also receive special recognition and an award at the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards Celebration on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Saint Paul.

About the Minnesota Book Awards:
The Minnesota Book Awards is a project of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, with the Saint Paul Public Library and City of Saint Paul. The program was created in 1988 by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and other organizations as a part of the Festival of the Book. Awards are presented each year to books in nine categories by Minnesota writers or illustrators, as well as the Kay Sexton Award, Book Artist Award, and the biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award. Through its work with the Book Awards, The Friends was designated the Minnesota Center for the Book, a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To find out more about the Minnesota Book Awards and the Center for the Book, please visit

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