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On August 5th, we were scheduled to do Jentel Presents, a public series of presentations at a downtown Sheridan college. In the early hours of that morning, friend and mentor Marilyn Sward lost her battle with cancer. I’m writing about Marilyn, for later. It’s too difficult right now. But: she is the person who brought hand papermaking to Chicago, first founding and running the nonprofit Paper Press, then bringing that together with Artists’ Book Works, to create the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. She served as its founding Director, taught in both the InterArts department at Columbia and at SAIC, and did thousands of other extremely worthy things as well. She is the person who set me on the path I’ve taken for the past twelve years; she is responsible for my involvement with both the Center and the MFA program; she changed my life. Marilyn Sward is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever been privileged to know.
At first I had absolutely no idea how I could possibly get through the evening. But I thought of how much Marilyn loved what we do, how she had an enthusiastic lifelong mission to share the wonders, quirks, beauty and potential of this medium. It was a good-sized crowd; the room was full. And so, I talked; I talked about paper, and what I do with it, and why, and I talked with my heart, something Marilyn, with her enormous spirit, highly valued and completely understood. It turned out to be, personally, the best thing I could have done, cathartic for myself, and to honor her; to carry it on, to keep sharing.
People came up afterwards to touch and handle the paper I’d brought; I was told that the talk was ‘excellent’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘passionate’. I am nothing at all like Marilyn, but I will do whatever I can to continue to pass along everything she gave me, physically and in spirit, in my own odd way.
Jentel presents PR photo: Top: Ravi, Jen, me; bottom: Robin, Nina, Andres.