The champagne corks are popping this fall at Open Book, the 52,000-sq.-ft. facility in Minneapolis, Minn., devoted to the book arts. Two of the three independent literary arts organizations sharing space in the building, located on the edge of the city's downtown area, are celebrating milestones: the Loft Literary Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary providing services to readers and writers, while Milkweed Editions is marking its 25th year of publishing literary fiction, poetry and nonfiction.
Both nonprofits are commemorating their anniversaries with gala fund-raising events. Milkweed is holding a Book Lovers Ball on October 2. The Loft is hosting a dinner on November 13, featuring a menu inspired by guest of honor Pat Conroy's Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. The evening will conclude with a dance party at Open Book.
The Twin Cities literati are also preparing to celebrate a third milestone this year: the fifth anniversary of Open Book itself. The project, a collaboration among the Loft, Milkweed and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, has resulted in the Open Book building becoming a bustling hub for Minneapolis's literary community.
Five years after the building's groundbreaking ceremony in 1999, an artists' collective and a coffee house currently share the space, along with its three founding tenants. A Ruminator satellite bookstore opened in 2000 but closed in 2003. Open Book now contains classrooms, meeting rooms, studios, exhibition spaces, a resource library and an auditorium. Author readings, lectures, bookmaking classes, literary festivals, art openings and other events bring an estimated 11,000 visitors per month into the building.
Hilary Reeves, Milkweed's managing director, told PW, "Being part of Open Book has been incredible for us as a publisher. It's given us a physical presence in the community, a leg up in registering with readers on more than a book-by-book basis, but as an organization with a mission. There's a sense of the public face of literature that just hadn't existed before."
According to Loft administrative director Nancy Gaschott, Open Book's impact reaches beyond the Upper Midwest. "Each of the three organizations has been transformed by their participation in Open Book. It has increased our exposure, as well as the strength of our programs and public awareness of what we do. We get visitors from all over the world who come to Open Book, wanting to know all about it. We get representatives from literary organizations elsewhere, hoping to replicate the concept. It's helped to solidify the Twin Cities region as a very important center for literary activity in the nation," she said.
Reeves added, "Culturally, the Twin Cities area supports the arts in a way other cities don't. Open Book gives us a way to talk about that, and to continue to talk about that—both locally and nationally."