A Letter to the CPC Community
TO THE CPC COMMUNITY FROM DEBORAH MARIS LADER, DIRECTOR/FOUNDER
THE STATE OF THE PRINTSHOP
While the studio is in its prime, I have decided to begin the process of stepping away from directing the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative in order for the workshop to chart its future course with younger leadership. During this transition, beginning in January 2024, some of our programming will be paused, including classes and gallery exhibitions. Read on:
34 years ago, a new printmaking studio was started in a 2nd story walkup in Wicker Park, a raw space where cold Chicago winds gusted through old windows, and the nearest place to get a snack was cut rate liquor on Division St. The bricks rained salty residue on the tables and floor, but there was always someone’s baby or toddler around to wipe up the mess by crawling around in their overalls. A hoarder who collected broken xerox machines lived in the back and there was an occasional fire when he cooked on an old hotplate as he napped with his 5 cats. We never did get around to taping the drywall over there. A defunct printshop that had occupied the space had laid vacant for many years, and left behind one combo etching press, a stomp shear from 1898, some stones, and a metal bin full of solvent-soaked sawdust (in the old days they used to clean etching plates this way, but one live cigarette ember would have sent the whole building to the moon). Not exactly the stage set where dreams are made, but somehow, in my ignorant youth, I decided this was what I was meant to do. I was new to the city and learned its streets by combing through alleys looking for materials to build out the studio. I’m still convinced that the latticed board I hauled out of a hospital demolition site was used for postmortems. It served as our graining sink topper. I inherited a wooden drying rack from printmaker visionary June Wayne – completely useless but because it meant something, it stayed.
The very best part was that printmakers showed up. As long as there was a press and ink and a flimsy fan to choke out the fumes, some really groovy artists made stuff from plates, blocks, stones and screens. It was a printy commune full of all sorts of amazing, creative characters with whom I was honored to work alongside. Some are still working in the shop, and we have watched one another progress and grow as artists. Others have spread their print wings across the globe and established themselves in universities, residencies, and in their own printmaking workshops. Two locations, two moves, and all these years later, our community has only grown and thrived and blossomed, and I have come to know and love my fellow print nerds like family.
Our programming is currently robust. Classes are full, with growing waitlists. Our Bloom Residency recipients have been a joy to work with. Our Steamroller Fests have outgrown our back driveway. Our part time staff is spectacular, as well as our volunteers and interns. CPC is known around the world, and international visitors to Chicago seek us out to spread some ink or buy prints created by our artists.
The CPC printshop is in a very healthy place. CPC was my first “baby”, and like my other actual offspring, there comes a time in which it’s appropriate to let go, and let those babies find their wings and thrive in the world on their own terms. I’m actually not planning on going anywhere and would very much like to be a working member of the studio. I’m very excited to focus more on my printmaking practice, my family, some new projects I’m cooking up, and some residencies and travel. I should mention that I’m in fine health (for an old bird – some of you were worried), but I do believe exiting while still on top of my game is the goal.
My heart and soul will always be with this beautiful vibrant printmaking community that started from nothing, and I plan to stick around and watch it continue to thrive.
So, what’s next for CPC?
I have no idea what the future holds for CPC, but I’m excited about its potential. As I take a step back, I am open and looking for someone to assume operations and write the CPC’s next chapter. If you’re that person, hit me up. Or, if you know some smart, multitasking talent who has both a passion for print and a knack for business who might be the needle in the haystack with the energy to take on the task, forward this letter to them along with my contact. I’m open to all reasonable proposals. I own the building and will continue to be its benevolent landlord. I own the contents of CPC and would be open to some sort of long term “rent to own” arrangement or to just sell it outright, as long as it stays put and I can have access to its equipment. I’m open to a new name and focus for the workshop. Whatever. Or perhaps we just leave it as is – a shared studio full of a bunch of fellow print enthusiasts, just sharing resources and decision-making and presses and a whiskey on the printmaker party deck. A printy commune, kind of like where it all started in 1989, minus the solvent soaked sawdust. Let me know your thoughts.
In the interim, I have a plan to simplify CPC programming starting Jan 1, 2024. It will be easier for someone to take over if things are a bit more quiet. I will break it down into sections so that it’s clear, and so that you can skip to the parts that interest/affect you:
WORKING PRINTMAKER MEMBERSHIP and RESIDENT ARTISTS:
For members and resident artists, much will remain the same, and you will love what we will call this “transitional period”. More access to presses and work time. More focus on your needs as working members of the studio. More say in what goes on around the studio. If everyone wants to do events, you can do them, and all the various tasks involved will be delegated by whomever takes the lead. If you don’t want to do events, we won’t do them. This is your studio, and you will have more responsibility to keep it organized, clean, and wonderful (there will be less staff, so cleaning and maintenance will be a group effort). I will personally be doing my own work alongside you, with less distractions like open public hours, classes, and other programming.
If someone else is running the studio in a year, I trust that it will be someone who values the working membership program, as it certainly has always been the beating heart of the workshop. I envision more check ins and member gatherings. Even better news is that Maddie May will stay on as membership coordinator in 2024.
We will pause classes in January and February and will not be offering our usual winter session of courses. Beginning in March, we will offer only the etching class for a 10-12 week session. In the summer, we will only offer Screenprinting. The reasoning behind this is that until someone new is running the studio, we need to simplify the giant task and cost of running classes. I hope that this will be a temporary pause on our full class offerings and that they will resume with new leadership (after all they are HUGELY popular). I will very much miss our beloved students during that time, and we have always emphasized EDUCATION as a primary goal in our mission, but my hope is that this pause is temporary. Private classes and work sessions will be completely suspended until a later date. We will not be offering SPRING SHORTS.
GALLERY & GALLERY ARTISTS:
Beginning Jan 1, 2024, the CPC will no longer have regular open hours to the public. The gallery will only be open by appointment. I may develop gallery events based on the needs of guest curators, and our members may host other special exhibitions. CPC will retain a very focused roster of gallery artists, and their work will be available and shown on a rotating basis.
We have begun the giant task of returning unsold work to many of the artists in our flatfile drawers. I am also returning all unsold artwork to our member artists, so that they can manage their own sales and exposure.
THE ANNUAL SMALL PRINT SHOW:
The 34th Annual Small Print Show that opens this December will be our last planned exhibition and will run through the end of February. After January 1, the show may be viewed by appointment. We will display a combination of existing inventory, a few pieces by each of our regular working member artists and inky friends, and some new work I’m bringing in from Thailand, Japan and Mexico. I will not be sending out an artist call. The public will be welcomed into our warm, art and gift filled space as usual, and the show will be more focused with fewer artists and it will be spectacular.
FESTS, RESIDENCIES, EVENTS, and other programming:
Aside from an offsite CPC exhibition scheduled at IL Wesleyan University in January 2024, and the possibility of returning to EXPO in April, we will not be doing other special events until further notice. The Bloom Residency will take a hiatus in 2024 and I’m REALLY hoping someone will resume it in some form in the future.
ONLINE GALLERY/SHOPIFY PRESENCE:
The CPC online gallery store will stay and become even more populated as we move existing flat file inventory in the coming year. We have many fans of this platform who love purchasing the work of our artists, and it will continue to serve our print enthusiasts nationwide.
In closing, I am grateful for this community, and I celebrate you all for playing your part in its success. I’m very excited about the future of CPC. I hope programming can continue, but it will not be under my supervision, and I look forward to seeing who might step forward and make it happen in some form!
My new goal (in a few years) is to be that old decrepit human in my private studio in the back of the CPC workspace, happily going back and forth with my litho-stone-toting rollie cart after a successful ink rollup, passing by younger printmakers who have no idea who I am or what the hell I’m doing there. I do not plan on napping with lots of cats, but a little dog would be nice.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or comments. We have so many wonderful events and programs going on this fall, and the current gallery show is MAGNIFICENT. Scroll on for more info on all that.
With love and inky solidarity,
Deborah Maris Lader