Upwards of 500 printmakers from all over the country will converge on Louisville this week for the Mid-America Print Conference (MAPC). The conference, which runs Oct. 5-8, is co-hosted by Indiana University Southeast and the University of Louisville, but it will reach out to include a host of galleries all over Louisville and Southern Indiana.
Printmakers are a social people in general, according to Rachel Singel, the printmaking professor at UofL and an MAPC organizer. “You’re not working isolated on one canvas,” she tells Insider. “You’re working with a group of people, (a print shop) is a shared space, there’s a real wonderful sense of togetherness.”
Printmaking requires heavy machinery, strong chemicals and proper ventilation, so it’s not something you can just head out to the backyard or spare room to play around with.
Susanna Crum, an assistant professor of fine arts at IUS who specializes in printmaking, believes the conference extends the sense of community from one print shop to the whole nation. “It’s a really good way for us, that is students and educators and artists, to all come together and talk about what’s been happening in the past two years, innovations in research, new experimentation and methods,” she says.
Though Crum and Singel both are proponents of the conference, they are relatively new to their universities. It was longtime IUS staff member Donna Stallard who was chiefly responsible for bringing MAPC to Louisville, working with funds from Indiana University’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Grant. Stallard has been involved with MAPC’s governing body, the Mid-America Print Council, for years and currently serves as its secretary.
Though networking and spreading innovation is a chief goal of the conference, Singel and Crum have some other motives.
“Part of the reason to host this conference … is to be able to have undergrad students from around the country touring through our facilities and seeing what we’re doing, and hopefully we’ll get some really strong applicants for our program this year,” says Singel, touting the growth of UofL’s print program, which includes a new building in the Portland neighborhood.
Crum broadens the scope of that hope. “A lot of artists are in a position where they have a freedom to choose the kind of communities in which they want to start or continue their art practice,” she says, recalling that when she was a student and attending conferences, she was often auditioning potential cities. “I was thinking about it like, ‘Is this a place I’d like to live?’ So I think there is a possibility that we can get more artists moving here to start their own businesses, to start their own galleries, and continue their studio practice.”
She knows a little something about what it might take to open a new space; she co-owns a printmaking studio, Calliope Arts, in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood.
Calliope Arts is one of the many local galleries that will get in on all the printmaking action this week. And another gallery, Kaviar Forge, is starting early: They opened their print exhibit, “Printmaking in Kentucky,” on Sept. 30.
“Printmaking in Kentucky” features 18 local and regional artists. Insider caught up with gallery manager Kayla Bischoff about how they prepared the show.
“I sent out a call to artists through multiple outlets, online primarily,” she says. “We get lots of submissions in, and then once the deadline is past, Craig (Kaviar, the owner of the gallery) and I sit down and choose the works.”
Bischoff is a recent graduate of Bellarmine University, and she says conferences like these create strong bonds within the community. “It’s great — just like the Photo Biennial we have every couple of years — it really inspires everybody in the community to come together and celebrate this one type of art, and focus on it. I’ve met and been introduced to other galleries through this, so it creates a camaraderie as well.”
The community also can be rewarded by letting outsiders in. Art Sanctuary in Germantown is an artist collective with studio space and a gallery. Their contribution to MAPC is hosting a gallery show for printmakers from Boston.
Britany Baker, vice president of Art Sanctuary, explains how her organization became involved. “They actually contacted us initially because they were looking for alternative gallery space where they could do large format prints,” she says. “We said, ‘Come on down.’ They are wonderful, and the show is beautiful.”
Baker discusses the value of outside artists visiting a community. “Anytime you invite outside people, you become less insular, you bring in these other ideas and processes and ways of doing things. They bring their own sense of place into your space and affect everyone there.”
Many of the activities of MAPC are for festival attendees only, such as various in-depth demonstrations on different printmaking techniques, but most of the gallery shows are open to the public.
There also are great opportunities for local print aficionados to get prints from around the country, and for local printmakers to get access to interesting new materials. On Saturday, Oct. 8, there will be a Vendor’s Fair open to the public from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. at IUS.
One of the great aspects of printmaking, mentioned by nearly every interviewee, is it lends itself to creating affordable art, and that’s important to new art lovers.
“So when people are thinking about and learning about the value of having original art work in their home, giving them as gifts, passing them on to family members, prints are a really wonderful entry into collective original works of art,” says Crum.