Co-op lets artists crank out prints

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IMAG0527by Sayaka Matsuoka

Intricate prints hung from the wall; black ink smeared across a table; people poured wine and snacked on cheese, all while a large machine at the center of the room ate sprawling sheets of paper. It was the first official night of the Print Factory, in Room 421 of the Center for Visual Artists, and art supplies and people filled the space to the brim.

People of all ages and backgrounds showed up to witness and experience the opening of this new artist cooperative space in downtown Greensboro, on Jan. 2. The room will be the home of the Piedmont Print Co-op, a new printmaking artist space.

Even for gallery-laden Greensboro, there was a need for a space like the one the Print Factory provides, CVA Executive Director Katie Lank said. When a graduate art student approached Lank with the idea for the co-op printmaking space two years ago, Lank thought it was a novel idea.

The core ideas behind the collective include bringing artists together, allowing for those without the resources required of printmaking to make prints and engaging students in the various universities in the city. The interest in student participation stemmed from the question of what the artists do after graduation and whether they have the space or resources to continue making art. The co-op aims to connect with students while they are still in school so they could work in the space after they graduated, said Lank.

Thomas Sara, the studio facilitator of the Print Factory, is a recent art graduate from UNCG and a printmaker, too. He was creating prints of the co-op’s logo Friday night, demonstrating printmaking and the new press in the studio. Sara designed the logo himself and it represents the co-op well. A simple black and white picture of a brayer, or roller used in printmaking to roll ink onto the block with the image is surrounded by a circle and the words “Piedmont Print Co-op”. Sara had already made several prints by the time of the opening and they lay on a table in the back of the room for anyone to take.

Sara will manage the space during its open hours and help educate the public about the printmaking process. He too said that the co-op is a great way for artists who are no longer in school and can’t utilize the university’s art resources to rely on the collective’s supplies.

One of the main reasons that printmaking artists have to join the co-op is the expensive nature associated with the art. Although there are several variations of printmaking, most of them utilize a press like the hulking one in the Print Factory, which can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. The collective, which received funding from ArtsGreensboro and the Gallucci Creative Fund, has a new, large printing press in the center of the room, enabling artists to make several prints quickly. The co-op also provides cleaning supplies, storage and studio space, but artists who pay to join the co-op will still have to bring their own paper and ink.

For now, the collective is invite only meaning artists can apply for a membership if they have a history in printmaking and this is to ensure that all artists working in the space know how to use the equipment.

Molly Stouten, an art teacher at Canterbury School in Greensboro, said at the event that the Print Factory will enable her to make art more easily and frequently. She’s been making prints since 1986 and later obtained her MFA in printmaking.

“It’s the answer to what I’ve been looking for,” Stouten said as she peered around, holding her gaze briefly on the new press in the center of the room. She is particularly excited about the potential ability to use the press, especially due to the expensive nature of the art.

“I thought about buying my own but I don’t have enough space in my house nor do I have the extra money,” she said.

Non-members looking to learn more about printmaking can still visit the factory during its open hours and talk to Sara to learn about the art or how to get involved. The collective will also be starting weekend workshops for adults in the spring for those wanting to learn how to make prints and offering educational programs for children, Lank said.

It’s a simple idea, really, to pool resources and provide artists using similar tools with a shared space. Simple enough that when Jim Gallucci, one of the new collective’s benefactors, was asked to say a few words at the opening last weekend he felt a brief quip would suffice: “Let’s make some art, let’s make it a factory.”

And to folks like Stouten, it couldn’t come soon enough.