Printmaking workshop connects community with art

Students and community members of all ages gathered to get their hands dirty in the Shoger Printmaking Studio on Saturday, Oct. 24. The first-ever Free Ink Day! Printmaking Workshop was a resounding success, providing a fun, free opportunity to create art, enjoy community and, as the slogan went, “get inky.”

The workshop was hosted by Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis, in conjunction with the Pace Prints exhibition currently on display at Flaten Art Museum.

Participants were welcomed into the studio to make a type of print called monoprints. The artists created images on Plexiglas plates with ink, using tools such as paintbrushes, q-tips, rags and stencil shapes. They then placed printing paper over their inked plate and ran it through the printing press to transfer the ink, creating a print they could take home after it dried.

Many participants were novices to printmaking, but there was plenty of help available: two staff members from Highpoint, three of the four fifth-year art apprentices, Associate Professor of Art John Saurer and the members of his printmaking class were all on hand to assist.

“A lot of people don’t know what printmaking is, so we like to do free events like this to kind of pull people in in an environment that is very easy to come into, very open,” Highpoint education and community programs manager Dana Lemoine said. “I think it’s really great for printers and people without a lot of experience to just have an opportunity to experiment.”

Making printmaking accessible to all skill levels is a big part of Highpoint’s mission.

“Printmaking can be expensive, it can be intimidating, and so opportunities like this are a good way for people to get some experience and see if they like it or not,” she said.

Highpoint does off-site programs, like the Free Ink Day, three or four times a year. The center also has a gallery that is free and open to the public, which shows a different artist’s prints every month, and an artist co-op where members of the community pay a monthly fee to use the studio.

For Sauer, who teaches drawing, sculpture and prints, the event was the perfect community outreach component to Pace Prints, an exhibition he is very excited about.

“I have been dreaming of this show for many, many years,” he said.

Pace Prints is the showing of work created in the Pace Printmaking Studio, a master print shop in New York City. St. Olaf students have been visiting that venue for over 30 years as part of the New York Art Interim, the vocational interim class that the St. Olaf Art Department takes every other year with 18 students.

“It invites artists to come in and create prints as fine art, and it’s related to their own work, but it’s always a transition into something unique and new for themselves,” Saurer said.

Saurer, along with museum director Jane Becker Nelson and Pace master printer Justin Israels, curated the show, which runs through November.

“This is the first time we’ve done this [event], I’d love to think about doing it again,” Sauer said. “It’s a lot of work. My current printmaking class is volunteering, acting like master printers, which is the impetus for the show- the show is about the collaboration between the artists and the master printer, so we’re sort of practicing taking on that role. It’s a lot of fun.”

Saurer was very happy with the turnout for the four-hour long event, which drew many families from Northfield as well as students.

“It’s well-received,” he said. “There apparently is a need for members of the Northfield community to come into the wonderful studio and have a productive, safe place to work, so we may do this again in the future, not just for college kids but for people in town.”

Marni Kaldjian ’17, a student in the printmaking class, agrees.

“There’s often this disconnect between the community and St. Olaf, and it’s a place where a large percentage of Northfield’s population lives,” she said. “It’s important to try to bridge that gap. Art is an incredible thing to build community with.”