Grad student curates bookmark design project

Every year, the Koffler Gallery invites artists to design bookmarks and then tuck them into books on the sales tables at the annual Toronto Jewish Book Fair.

This year, Anisia Avram, York grad student and guest curator of this year’s Bookmark Project, will commission artists to design bookmarks for the October book fair. She’s looking for submissions.

What are the odds of finding one of this year’s exquisite little pieces of art? Pretty slim. This year, about 20 artists will each create two original, identical bookmarks. One bookmark will be inserted into a book of their choosing, the other will be placed on display. There are thousands of books on sale at the weeklong Toronto Jewish Book Fair in North York. The 34-year-old annual event (this year from Oct. 23 to 31), rated one of the biggest Jewish book fairs in North America, draws as many as 5,000 bargain hunters.

     Right: Anisia Avram

The Bookmark Project started nine years ago. The Koffler Gallery invites artists to submit designs based on themes, then selects and commissions a number of them. As curator, Avram came up with “amulet” as the design theme of this year’s competition.

Amulet or lucky charm, “the bookmark becomes a protective power, helping the reader find a way in and out of the book,” writes Avram. “Similar to the mythical thread of Ariadne that guided Theseus through the Minotaur’s labyrinthine lair, the bookmark acts as a course-plotting aid through the maze of words. It is the reader’s sidekick and amulet in a great book adventure.”

Avram is no stranger to curating. During her undergraduate years in visual arts at York, the 24-year-old Romanian-born student curated many shows for the Samuel J. Zacks Gallery in Stong College. As a founder of the InPrint Studio, a collective of student printmakers, she also organized shows and promotions.

Curating soon seized her imagination as much as her printmaking and photography. At Zacks, “I enjoyed thinking about other people’s art sometimes more than immersing myself in my own art. How I would display it, the audiences I could reach and the story I would tell of their art took centre stage in what I was doing back then.”

Left: A 2008 bookmark

Two years ago, Avram earned her bachelor of fine arts then enrolled in York’s Graduate Program in Art History. Infected by the curating bug, she sought advice about what credentials she would need and also enrolled in York’s master of business administration program. By next spring, she expects to complete both her MA thesis on Romanian-Canadian sculptor Sorel Etrog and her MBA. If she resists doing a PhD, she’ll look for a curatorial position.

     Left: A 2009 bookmark

Meanwhile, she’s trying to entice artists, including York visual arts students, to submit designs for the Bookmark Project. The deadline is Oct. 4 and details are posted on the Koffler Centre of the Arts Web site.

For those who aren’t lucky enough to find a little bookmark gem between the pages of a book fair purchase, the designs will be displayed after Oct. 23 on the Koffler Centre of the Arts Web site along with a critical essay by Avram about the project.

By Martha Tancock, YFile contributing writer