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Ingenuity Challenge grant winners plan to open local literary hub

Into the (Mountain) Fold



Marina Eckler has been contemplating the idea of creating a space in Colorado Springs for art books for about a decade. But when it came down to actually applying for a grant to advance the project, there was one thing she hadn't thought about — a name. And the Pikes Peak Community Foundation had an odd requirement, in that the name couldn't stretch beyond 14 characters.

So the 43-year-old artist and her 23-year-old partner in this venture, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student Jonathan Fey, got to brainstorming. The result, Mountain Fold (13 characters, including the space between words), was ideal in many ways.

"It's an origami term," Eckler explains. "And then it's a play on words, too, because we're here in the Front Range, where we have 'fold' mountains. I thought it had a little bit of music to it."

Fey adds, "It's also just the shape," unfolding one of the books he has with him into a peak on the table.

Apparently the name, and the project, connected. Through a public vote in October, they were selected out of five finalists to start the Mountain Fold nonprofit with a $10,000 grant. The idea behind their project is to open a bookstore/reading room/gallery space that people can enjoy without necessarily having to buy anything.

"What we want to do, hopefully, is kind of offer public access to some books that we think are cool and beautiful and don't really make their way into the community, especially here," Fey says. "Basically putting our community in contact with a larger conversation about book arts and text art and visual arts. And have a space for reading ... physical reading and communal reading around other people who are reading.

"I think there's kind of a vacuum as far as book culture goes here, but I think a lot of people are dying to have a book culture again, because I think Colorado Springs is pretty readerly."

"Really when you think about it," Eckler adds, "we're in this situation with book stores and book outlets, literary outlets, where there's this huge gap. I mean people still, if you bring up the Chinook bookstore [which closed in 2004], there's still like this, 'Ohhh, Chinook.' It's this sadness. And not that we're wanting to re-create that, and we couldn't even if we tried, [but] I believe that there's a need, but not necessarily a market, for this physical space for books."

So the idea is to be full steam in about a year, and to keep it all going with other grants, donations and events. They're actively looking for a facility, with a hope to be somewhere walkable between, as they say, the "centralized downtowns" (think between downtown and Ivywild, or Old Colorado City), so people can just drop in. Until they can find a permanent home, they're considering opening a satellite operation — "a bookstore on wheels," says Eckler — and hosting poetry readings and similar events across town to get people interested and excited.

Once they do have a space, they'll start building an inventory of contemporary small press art books and text-based ephemera, art journal and visual art magazine subscriptions, artists' monographs and the like from across the country — and at home.

"We thought about soliciting zines and handmade books from people in the community, and you know, we would certainly have a section for that," Eckler says. "That would be great. That would be like a shelf of friends, or new friends, hopefully."

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