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Students, faculty help create The Alphabet for innovative art project

Posted 07/09/15

The Alphabet

Students and faculty from Fitchburg State University are collaborating with celebrated artist Anna Schuleit Haber for a 26-day-long art project that will transform the front page of the Sentinel & Enterprise newspaper. “The Alphabet,” commissioned by the Fitchburg Art Museum, will run from July 13 to August 11.

The piece will be a limited-edition, daily experiment that explores visual language systems, the transport of text, and the shaping and meaning of news, both local and non-local. The project will adorn the daily newspaper with a series of front pages of art, poetry, and news stories that will appear, one after the other, on 26 days: not inside the paper but on its front page, using the entire, actual front page and putting the regular front page immediately behind it.

The artist and her collaborators intend to “use the natural parameters of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet to create this series of front pages, from A through Z. Each front page will have a large typographic design of a letter specially created by a guest typographer defining its page, around which daily news and found urban stories will be arranged,” according to the museum.

The typography and the stories will be created in continuous collaboration with citizens, writers, poets, high school and college students from the area. For the duration of The Alphabet, Haber will serve as an embedded artist at the Sentinel & Enterprise, together with her interns taking the roles of reporters and designers for what is hoped will be the paper’s most unusual run of front pages in its 177-year old history. 

This project is envisioned to be a creative “take-over” of the normal scope of the news. By using the public realm that the newspaper inhabits — the civic space, the metaphorical main street of our daily news — the project seeks to invite readers to pause and reflect, to engage, and to immerse themselves in this limited edition of art, design, and news-making on the front pages of the newspaper. Each of the 26 days will be a surprise.

The AlphabetTwenty-six typographers, including Fitchburg State Associate Professor Stephen Goldstein (Communications Media) have been invited to contribute one original letter each to this project, as a gift to the city, which will become the basis of one day’s front page design during the project. Each typographer is encouraged to make the letter as idiosyncratic and unusual, as legible or abstract, as colorful or monochromatic as is inherent to his or her style and wider creative approach. Each letter will then influence and suffuse that day’s design and reporting, much of which is being done by Fitchburg State students working as Schuleit Haber's interns.​ Assistant Professor Elise Takehana (English Studies) is also contributing "meditations" on the letters.

The aim is to assemble the most diverse and far-reaching collaborative alphabet that has ever been created for a daily newspaper. Letters as big and bold as the entire newspaper page, reminiscent of illuminated letters, will inspire a second and third glance from readers. After twenty-six days, any loyal reader of the paper will have a complete limited-edition set of front pages. 

Usual daily print runs of the Sentinel & Enterprise are currently at 14,000 on weekdays and higher on weekends. Printing of the 26 alphabet front pages will be under the auspices of the daily newspaper. The project will be exhibited, day after day, in the Fitchburg Art Museum, as the series unfolds. 

This project is supported by an NEA "Our Town" grant and commissioned by the Fitchburg Art Museum in partnership with the city of Fitchburg and Fitchburg State University.

A comprehensive website will chronicle each day’s reporting and challenges, printing and design.

​The Sentinel & Enterprise website has a page devoted to the project.

About the Lead Artist

Anna Schuleit Haber is a visual artist whose work lies at the intersection of painting, drawing, installation art, architecture, history, and community. Haber studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), creative writing at Dartmouth, and was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard. She was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow for work that has “conceptual clarity, compassion, and beauty.” Her recent projects revolve around seriality and memory, and include a body of 104 paintings based on Thomas Bernhard’s short fiction, as well as large-scale drawing commissions for architecture. She is currently based in New Orleans. Read more about her at her website.

The 26 Typographers

A - Felix Salut, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
B - Andreas Schenk, Basel, Switzerland
C - Dan Keleher, South Hadley
D - Matthew Carter, Cambridge
E - Shoko Mugikura + Tim Ahrens, Garching, Germany
F - Nina Stoessinger, Den Haag, The Netherlands
G - Cyrus Highsmith, Providence, R.I.
H - Laura Meseguer, Barcelona, Spain
i - Therese Schuleit, Beirut, Lebanon
J - Joe Riedel, Northampton
K - Francesca Bolognini, Cambridge
L - Anna Schuleit Haber, New Orleans
M - Franz Werner, Providence, R.I.
N - Frank Grießhammer, Calif.
O - Russell Maret, New York, N.Y.
P - Barry Moser, North Hatfield
Q - Pam Glaven, Northampton
R - Nick Benson, Newport, RI
S - Indra Kupferschmid, Saarbrücken, Germany
T - Geri McCormick, Rochester, N.Y.
U - Catherine Griffiths, Auckland, New Zealand
V - Stephen Goldstein, Ipswich
W - Nicole Dotin, Golden Valley, Minn.
X - Nico Bergmann, Cologne, Germany
Y - Esen Karol, Istanbul, Turkey
Z - Akira Kobayashi, Germany

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