Octavofest was first held in 2009, when a program of eight types of events (e.g., exhibitions, demonstrations, art museum tours, and lectures) was held during the month of October and sponsored by Art Books Cleveland (ABC). ABC, formed a year earlier (March 2008), is the Cleveland-area organization devoted to advancing the appreciation of book and paper arts. Its members include book artists, binders, conservators, calligraphers, printers, and papermakers.
Octavofest, like ABC, actually grew out of program that had taken place two years earlier in October 2007 when Cincinnati book artist Kate Kern had a one-month residency – coincidentally held in the month of October! — at Heights Arts and the Heights Library. Her workshops, public art projects, and associated activities involving school children, poets, and others culminated in a program titled The Joy of Text. These were the events that brought together the founding members who formed ABC and exposed the wide-spread interest in the book as an art object, the product of traditional artistic practice and the site of modern innovation.
After a year of workshops and other activities, a second Joy of Text Festival in October 2008 (sponsored by Heights Arts) included the first ABC Abecedarium exhibition — a show of handmade books with an alphabet theme, continuing a centuries-old tradition with a modern and global twist. While Heights Arts interests were most directly tied to literary and text-driven priorities, the emerging strengths of the book arts community began to take a different direction.
The serendipitous – and mutually reinforcing and supportive – establishment of the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation in downtown Cleveland in October 2008 created a regional synergy of interest, enthusiasm, instruction, and publicity for Cleveland’s love affair with the book as an art object. The presence of an important artist book teaching collection at the Cleveland Institute of Art, the existence of a number of collections of rare and beautiful books held by libraries all around the area, the on-going programming by organizations such as the Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society, the vitality of local artist-led presses, binderies, and regional conservation institutions, the support of local independent bookstores, and the growing expertise of the local book and paper arts creative community – these encouraged ABC to conceive of the region-wide celebration now known as Octavofest.
By 2010, the founding organization, ABC, partnered directly with the Cleveland Public Library’s Ohio Center for the Book, Cleveland State University’s Michael Schwartz Library, and the Morgan to organization, publicize, and staff a full program. Collaborating organizations and institutions had expanded to a dozen, and in coordination they presented nearly fifty different events at twenty different venues across Cuyahoga County. These events included multiple exhibitions, lectures, artist demonstrations, workshops and classes, art tours, and lectures that filled the entire month of October and brought the exciting world of book and paper arts to a wide audience of all ages.
Looking to the future, Octavofest expects to draw state-wide attention by combining the energies of new collaborators that can leverage their own venues, audiences, expertise, staff, and other resources.