Dear Friends and Hand Papermakers,
It is with profound sadness that I relay the news of Marilyn Sward’s death this past August 5, 2008, just two weeks after her sixty-seventh birthday. As friends and colleagues know, during the past few years she valiantly fought cancer with an optimism and determination that was characteristic of her nature. Though she left us in her prime, she passed on a legacy that is both a celebration of her life and work, as well as a challenge to those of us she touched and inspired to continue her good work.
It is difficult to be brief about the wide range of professional accomplishments of this gifted artist, educator, author, leader, and champion of the arts. She was founding director of The Book and Paper Arts Center of Columbia College, Chicago. Drawing on her years of experience teaching at The Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College, she succeeded in synthesizing the fiber arts, papermaking, the book arts, and photography into a model program for inter-disciplinary visual arts.
Marilyn’s success as an educator began, first and foremost, with her gift as an artist. Though she studied painting in school, she found her medium in hand papermaking. She savored time in the studio making her art, yet she was also an extraordinary collaborator. She co-authored “The New Photography” with Catharine Reeve and co-created the “Treewhispers” international paper installation with Pamela Paulsrud. She approached all her roles and relationships in the true spirit of collaboration, including her invaluable board service for Hand Papermaking magazine and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.
Although I never had the chance to travel with Marilyn on one of the exotic “fiber/paper” trips she organized to India or Bali, I had unforgettable adventures with her. During the five years we worked together on the Hunter/Howell Fellowship we met in airports and even in the Green Bay Packer’s parking lot, to squeeze in a little needed face time. No matter what project was cooking, and there was always some project cooking in that fertile mind of hers, it was such an honor, not to mention fun, to be a co-conspirator in one of her inspired projects. Marilyn knew that the key to a rich life was in the giving, which she did with her heart and soul to her family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions she helped create. We will miss her terribly.
Those who would like to make a donation in her honor may do so to The Hand Papermaking Endowment Fund, Box 1070, Beltsville, MD 20704; or The Marilyn Sward Endowment Fund, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan, Chicago IL 60605.
Sincerely, Sue Gosin Princeton, New Jersey
This memorial article is reprinted from Hand Papermaking Newsletter, Number 84, October 2008 issue.