Monday, June 7, 2010

The benefits of a shared studio space

Angee Lennard
Spudnik Press

We all know that sharing space can be hard:

Through directing a print shop, I have been able to work with many artists in their studio. This studio happens to also be my studio, and for that matter, the studio of about 200 artists: Spudnik Press Cooperative. I have been able to observe that the advantage of sharing a studio go far beyond economic benefits.

A little background about Spudnik Press Cooperative:

Spudnik Press Cooperative is a community printshop in West Town. We are now celebrating our three-year anniversary.  Our mission is to provide facilities and services available to artists who need a place to create or exhibit their original artwork, especially those who cannot obtain access to traditional printmaking facilities and exhibition spaces because of financial or other limitations. We provide education in printmaking practices though uniting professional artists with a diverse community of emerging artists, established artists, youth, and adults.

Sharing things saves money:

The most obvious reasons for artists to share studio space are financial reasons. We all know that when we convince our friend to move into the “office” not only does rent go down, but utilities are also split two ways.

But it doesn’t stop there:

By sharing materials such as ink and screens, printers are able to freely experiment with color and technique. At times it is as literal as one artist using surplus ink from another artist’s print run. Not necessarily because this is resourceful, but because they were witness to that color being used, and would like to investigate using it in their own work. Not only is this saving time and money, but also it is allowing artists to experience a material being used in a way that they previously hadn’t seen. They are making discoveries through their peers’ studio practice as well as their own.

Learning through others:

Members of Spudnik Press receive 15% off classes as a way to encourage continuing education. This is merely a gesture representing our philosophy that one should continually be honing their craft and expanding possibilities in their art. One day I came to the studio and found Pablo, one of our most frequent intaglio printers, explaining to Tom, one of our most frequent screen printers, how to properly apply a hard ground to a sheet of copper. This summer, Tom will be showing Pablo how to screen print. Observing this interaction was much more than a gesture. I was able to physically see two artists from very different backgrounds working together, trading knowledge for knowledge. This interaction was only able to happen because both artists signed on to work in a community space.

Problem Solving:

Printmaking is a process-oriented craft. If one variable is out of line, an entire project can quickly deteriorate. And as anyone with printing experience knows, printing is about 75% problem solving. Online forums are very helpful but nothing beats a room full of printers working together to conquer one of the many mysterious jams we often find ourselves in.

Exchange Projects:

Collaboration is second-nature for the printmaker. An age-old printing practice is to have “clean hands” and “dirty hands”, with the artist inking and printing their plate or screen, and a friend (with freshly washed hands) handling the paper.

Printers are also often drawn to the medium precisely due to printmaking’s democratic capacities. From this ideal has grown a tradition of hosting print exchanges. A pool of artists is created, all contribute one edition of a print, and everyone trades with everyone. Exchanges can range in scope, but usually there is a size requirement and a theme. This allows the end product to be a sizable body of cohesive artwork. It functions as an entire group show in a highly transportable envelope or folder or box. Exchanges also are a departure point for building a collection of artwork.

We have hosted three exchanges at Spudnik Press: The 3-D Print Exchange (comes with red and blue glasses), Tender Twenties (20 artists in the 20’s making work about their 20’s), and MEAT!.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration:

One of our more structured collaborations has been with the literary magazine Artifice. We teamed up with the editors to pair up the work of ten writers with ten printers. During the planning stages, we saw that this project could become a logistical mess due to the quantity of prints needed and the amount of materials we would use creating the work. So we decided to make some restrictions.  All ten printers shared the same colors of ink, and we all printed each others' work. Printers gained experience printing a variety of types of illustrations. The resulting body of work demonstrated ten approaches to the same color palette. Writers were able to see their work illustrated for the first time, reveal insights to their own work. At the release of the magazine, writers and visual arts were able to meet each other, opening up possibilities of future collaboration.

Artists in Residence:

The residency program at Spudnik Press funds one print-based project per season. We have worked with two collaborative groups, to date. Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger in the fall of 2008. Last spring, we were able to work with Onsmith and Paul Nudd. Miller and Shellabarger have a history of working collaboratively, and it was enlightening to see them work so fluidly in a collaborative situations. Nudd and Onsmith have long been supportive of each others work, but prior to the residency had not collaborated in this way. While both artists do create their own work from independent studios, utilizing Spudnik Press gave them a meeting point in which they could both contribute equally. They created a dedicated schedule in which they were able to balance working individually on their own contributions, and working as a team. It was rewarding to see these two artists evolve as they became more influenced by the process, and more fluid in navigating a collaborative print.

In conclusion:

A primary motivation at Spudnik Press is to cultivate engagement among different sectors of society and to establish community by creating a common cultural heritage. We aim to create a platform for members of the artistic community to communicate with individuals without artistic training. We hope to empower people without artistic training to see themselves as part of a larger community; as individuals capable of creative endeavors that can have a lasting (positive) contribution to the community.

I began this post exclaiming that sharing space is hard. I thought that my writing would investigate how we can best navigate community space to minimize the difficulties of sharing personal space. But in truth, the difficulties amount to nothing more interesting than what we all experience in any public space. Some times two people need to use the sink at the same time. Some times one person would like to listen to a podcast while another would like Reggae. I am more interested in the possibilities of a space that is simultaneously the studio of individual artists as well as a group space. I am interested in creating an environment that does not hinder personal visions for the visions of the group, but that enables personal visions to swell and proliferate and mingle with each other to create yet more visions.

Where to go from here:
This Thursday, June 10, Spudnik Press is hosting a panel discussion, The Local Residency to continue the conversation about the affects of working in a community studio. Past Artists in Residence will speak about their experiences at Spudnik Press and address how a local residency can function in an artist’s career.

My next post will focus on the trials and tribulations of building Spudnik to be a collaborative studio space that allows each artist to maintain a sense of ownership. I will share a variety of business models that I have come across in my research to create a shared studio that is sustainable.

1. Spudnik Press Cooperative, 2009
2. Surplus Ink, 2008
3. Students; Intro to Screenprinting Class, 2009
4. Untitled, Brian Stuparyk, 2008
5. Police Procedural, 2010, Tom Wilder
6. Apples, Crosses, 2010, Jeremy Lundquist
7. And This Would Happen Too in Other Homes, 2010, Colin Palombi
8. Onsmith Dog Stew and Monkey Nudd Wine, 2009, Nudd and Onsmith

Angee Lennard is the founder of Spudnik Press Cooperative, and currently serves as the Executive Director. She has participated in group shows at Green Lantern, Heaven Gallery, Butcher Show, Beverly Art Center, and Marwen and been an Artist in Residence at AS220 in Providence, RI. She has been a panelist at Zygote Press’ Collective INK and The Chicago Cultural Center’s Collaborative Studios Discussion. She is currently the secretary of the Chicago Printers Guild and a member of Southern Graphics Council. She received her BFA with an emphasis is Print Media from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005.

No comments:

Post a Comment