Applauding the Entire Book: The Alice Award

The book industry may be in flux, but there is no shortage of support for beautiful books at the Furthermore Grants in Publishing program, funded by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, which gives modest grants for nonfiction in support of writing, research, editing, design, indexing, photography, illustration and printing and “significant visual books.” It’s the passion of its president, Joan K. Davidson, longtime patron of the arts in New York City, former chair of the NYS Council on the Arts and Commissioner of New York State Parks in 1993. Tonight, she is host for a celebration of the project and will bestow the first Alice Award, named for her mother, Alice M. Kaplan. I recently corresponded with Ms. Davidson about the genesis of this award and its first recipient.

youth2“After some 10 or so years, it appeared that Furthermore had supported over one thousand publications, to the tune of $5 million — in mostly modest grants.

This record seemed to call for an “occasion;” and so came the idea to create a prize for a book as book, not only for, say, the author or the designer, but for the total thing.  And to epitomize that idea, my mother seemed right, as an art person, patron and arts activist, and avid book collector all her life.  Hence the Alice Award, of $25,000 from Furthermore.

The mechanics for the new award had to be professional, but manageable, since Furthermore’s staff consisted (and still does) of one, part-time person! So I invited some great folks to become a jury: Bill Griswold, Jock Reynolds, Paula Cooper, Massimo Vignelli and Gianfranco Monacelli.”

For simplicity’s sake, in the first year, all the books came from the hundreds that had received Furthermore grants in recent years.  The jury liked that system, and now wants to make it permanent.  The criteria were that it be an illustrated book, in which all parts–research and writing to printing and binding–are excellent; that it is animated by a fresh idea, and that the illustrations, not merely ornamental, are essential to that idea.  Our intent is to applaud the commitment to publishing these complicated, expensive books–and to help keep them coming in the years ahead!”

The winning book for 2013 is Youth & Beauty: Art of the American Twenties, edited by Theresa Carbone (Skira / Rizzoli and the Brooklyn Museum).

youth

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