Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols
Email interview conducted with Angee Lennard
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 Shop, Beverly Art Center, and Chicago Urban Art Space. She has been an Artist in Residence at AS220 in Providence, RI. She currently teaches at Marwen, Spudnik Press, and through Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE), and has previously taught at Rumble Arts and Paper Source. She has been a panelist at Zygote Press’ Collective INK and moderated the panel “Printmaker as Distributor, Collaborator, and Facilitator” at DePaul University Museum through Nomadic Studio. She is a member of the Chicago Printers Guild and Southern Graphics Council. She received her BFA with an emphasis is Print Media from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005.
TLN: I’ve read before, in your own words, about your inspiration for opening Spudnik Press, and since printmaking by nature is a very communicative medium, I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about how you communicate with the public? And online? And in print? Is their a particular tone or house style that you’ve developed over time?
AL: I think the communicativeness of printmaking affects the visuals that go along with what I write more than the words. Or rather, I have more confidence and experience in tweaking aesthetics and design than I do language. I spend a great deal of time with every mass e-mail I write because I am acutely aware that through the words I use, I am presenting Spudnik Press as a certain type of community. But my lack of editing experience leaves me guessing at the impact of my words. We do have standard fonts we use for all of our literature. It took me awhile to settle on “Fuse Green” for our 2011 Brochures.
There are a few tiers of people I communicate with. The broadest being “the public”. I try to put together as professional of a package as possible for this crowd. People won’t take you seriously until you take yourself seriously, and we need to earn peoples trust that we are a stable organization that is well-run with clear goals. Next, we have a google group for members. This is a group that I am in more communication with about donations we need, classes that have openings, volunteer opportunities, etc, and I’m a little more conversational with. Lastly, we have the inner circle of keyholders, monitors, and teachers. This is the group that gets e-mails full of slang and at times gripes (“Squeegees don’t clean themselves!”) Maintaining a conversational tone is important to our mission of remaining approachable. With printing being derived from industry, we use a great deal of terminology and can often slip into exclusive conversations about extraneous topics like ink viscosity. We forget how unwelcoming this is to non-printers. I use the all-inclusive “we” so often that my family has been confused about if I had a business partner or not.
I also try to clearly communicate exactly what Spudnik’s needs are, which requires a little bit of subtle education slipped into e-mails, press releases, facebook posts, etc. It also requires a great amount of transparency. A few years ago, I couldn’t with words clarify how drastically we needed people to conserve ink, pay rent on time, etc, so I started prominently displaying our bank statements. About a month later our situation started to improve. We also had a member offer to be our first Treasurer. People can only pull their own weight when they are made aware of what their share of responsibility is.
TLN: Asking for help is really hard sometimes—on that note, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about the Space Race!
AL: Space Race is a moniker we are using for the fundraising we are doing to allow us to move into a larger home. Everyone who has worked at Spudnik knows that we are crammed in our current location and the quicker we can procure the needed funds, the faster we can breath a little and add resources like letterpresses and an offset press the better. We are approaching it like a capital campaign – we’ll keep having fundraisers until our monetary goal is met. Our first fundraiser was an Art Documentation Day where donors were able to bring in a portfolio of work and have it documented. Next is The Hashbrown, a Chili Cook-Off between many of Chicago’s biggest printers. Another component is selling Subscriptions. For $250, up to 12 people can receive a package of prints every quarter throughout the year. The prints included in the subscription will be the best of the best that is made here, posters for our events, collaborative projects, work from Artists in Residence, artwork we publish, and the like. We are planning on using Kickstarter for the tail end of our fundraising, and have already had friends of Spudnik offer to teach relief printing, screenprinting, and harmonica to backers pledging at different tiers. I am also keeping an updated list of materials, equipment, and furniture that we are seeking donations of online.
TLN: Wow! So this is a really big push to make Spudnik bigger and better. Can you tell us how this speaks to Spudnik’s mission? And let us in on how you crafted that statement in the first place please.
AL: Moving to this new studio speaks to our mission in a few ways. Although it will take us some time to get our offset press up and running, access to this type of printing is practically non-existent, affordable or otherwise. Even though offset printing can produce higher volumes of prints faster and cheaper than other mediums, artists often cannot experiment with it. The more people using the studio, the more the overhead costs are divided among all users, allowing us to either lower rates or offer more free or discounted services to the community. I am also hoping that once we have a few more people using the studio, it will be easier to expand our regular hours. We currently are only officially open two nights a week, and Saturday afternoons.
I did not initially sit down to write a mission statement. Our goals slowly became evident to me as Spudnik developed. I knew I wanted to create a studio that encouraged open dialog and a supportive environment, but I didn’t know what that would look like or how it would function. I looked at other models, but until I started the shop it wasn’t clear to me what would end up striking a chord and becoming our mainstays. Our official mission statement, to me, is pretty dry and concise, developed for grant writing and our tax-exempt application. I feel our mission is actually much broader, complex, and intangible; something in the vain of enabling individuals, both those who identify as “artists” and those who don’t, to contribute to the visual culture of our city and use art as a means for communication and building community.
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer.
Guest post by Julia V. Hendrickson
Notes on a Conversation.
With—Angee Lennard (Founder, Director, and President of the Board of Directors at Spudnik Press)
In—my car, driving to a printmaking workshop at the Marwen Foundation in River North
Commenced—on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 8:30–9:15am
The moment I mentioned the word “printmaking” when I moved to Chicago, someone told me to visit Spudnik Press. Time and again I was encouraged by friends and new acquaintances alike in the art community to get in touch with Angee Lennard, to ask her questions, and to get involved in the print shop. When I finally met Angee and stopped by Spudnik Press, it dawned on me what the hubbub was all about; Angee is a quietly welcoming person, and her tireless efforts to maintain and promote a community print shop are inspiring. She is an educator who has chosen her cause, and the harder she works, the more those around her are energized to keep up. [Photo credit C.J. Mace, during Art on Track, 2010].
The last year has been a busy one for Angee, and for the Spudnik Press Cooperative community. In January 2010 Angee was the artist-in-residence at AS220, a community print shop in Providence, RI, where she focused on perfecting the art of mezzotint (a 17th century drypoint etching technique). Spudnik also hosted a few of its own artists-in-residence last year; early in the 2010, Lilli Carré made a small suite of illustrative screen prints recalling classical Greek ceramic decoration, as well as boldly colored, hand-printed artist books (one of which was featured in the MCA’s January New Chicago Comics exhibition).
Throughout the summer Jessica Taylor Caponigro (who is also an instructor at Spudnik) printed a subtly complex edition of etchings; wallpaper patterns inspired by class differences in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874). Most recently, Sanya Glisic has finished the 2010 residency program. Her stunning production is an edition that begs for a publisher and wider distribution: over 50 illustrated, hand-screen printed, and hand-bound artist books reinterpreting cautionary German children’s tales from Der Struwwelpeter (1845).
R: Sanya Glisic, “Der Struwwelpeter,” 2010-11
All of these projects are a testament to a hard-working and supportive print community at Spudnik. Be sure to keep an eye on the residency program, because the newest artist-in-residence is about to get the ball rolling: Dawn Gettler is slated to start printing etchings and a wallpaper installation in March. Other artists who have been utilizing the space include Liz Born, who just finished a series of complex reduction woodcuts called Dimorphisms; comic artist, book maker, and illustrator Edie Fake, who is printing the Chicago Zine Fest poster (which takes place on March 25th-26th); and Stan Shellabarger, who is creating a second “walking book.”
Future printmakers are bound to have a very different experience of Spudnik, however, because over the next few weeks, Spudnik is rapidly expanding. The shop began in 2007 in Angee’s Ukrainian Village apartment, and in 2008 (in order to make it a more egalitarian space), Spudnik moved to the third floor of the 1821 W. Hubbard building. Now, over three years later, Spudnik’s rapid expansion warrants another new space. It’s just down the hall, but it’s much bigger, and the exciting part is that it means the shop can now offer letterpress and offset printing.
Spudnik Press’ former studios spaces in 2007 (left) and 2008-2010 (right). Images from Flickr.
Fund raising (under the tag line, “Space Race: an epic mission to expand the boundaries of community printmaking”) is currently under way through the $50 membership program and the $250 subscription program (limited and exclusive access to Spudnik published prints throughout the year). Angee and the other board members hope to keep the shop sustainable by taking commissions and publishing editions for artists who don’t typically work in print.
Coming up this weekend is the Hashbrown, an annual fun-fund raiser and celebration. You can catch a glimpse of all the Spudnik activity at 1821 W. Hubbard St, #302 this Saturday, February 26th, from 7:00-10:00pm. Tensions are already high surrounding the printmaker’s chili cook-off, so be prepared to witness a little friendly competition. Representatives from One Horse Press, Screwball, The Post Family, Hummingbird Press, Rar Rar Press, Ork Posters, Anchor Graphics, Jetsah (Dan Grezca), and the student printshops at Columbia College, SAIC, and Harold Washington City College will all vie for the title of chili royalty while helping support Spudnik’s efforts to expand into a new studio space.
Julia V. Hendrickson is a native of eastern Ohio who lives and works as a visual artist, writer, and curator in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008 she graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art and a minor in English from The College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio). Julia is currently the gallery manager at Corbett vs. Dempsey, as well as the office manager and design assistant for Ork Posters. She is a teaching assistant at the Marwen Foundation, an active member of the Chicago Printers Guild, and has taught at Spudnik Press. A freelance art critic and writer for Newcity, Julia also keeps a blog called The Enthusiast, a documentation of the daily things that inspire, intrigue, and inform. She is currently exhibiting at Anchor Graphics (Columbia College Chicago) in a solo show titled FANTASTIC STANZAS, on view through March 26th.