While some of her dreams — a printmaking demonstration powered by a steamroller on Congress Street, for one — have yet to be realized, LISA PIXLEY's vision for the new Pickwick Independent Press, which opened in December and is housed in the Artist Studio building at 536 Congress, already seems to be coming along nicely.
"I'm not a printmaker," she says, "so I'm approaching it from a different place . . . My loyalties and agendas are toward artists, not printmakers." While you can apply for membership at the press, or rent a spot there for a day to take care of a project or just learn about the process (with hands-on advice from one of the Press's 10 "keyholder" members), Pixley most enjoys the projects that find artists using printing equipment for more left-field purposes.
One example: an artist who recently made prints out of fruits, vegetables, and inked-up fish, which are currently on display at Rabelais. "It smelled like fish and lemons and fruit. It was beautiful and disgusting at the same time," Pixley says. The space is designed to maximize experimentation and collaboration: "The equipment's different [from your standard printmaking shop], and the environment is not very sterile. It's not such a laboratory environment."
Pixley, now 31, has been in the Artist Studio since the late '90s, before her now-partner, Christopher Campbell (also noted in these pages), purchased it in 1998. She helps to manage the building — getting late-night calls from locked-out artists, conducting meetings with resident artists, and the like — and she and Campbell have worked hard to expand "the idea of what the Artist Studio building is." Given its ideal location and lengthy waiting list, they're constantly considering different approaches to maximizing activity there "without new real estate," including inviting the community in for occasional open-studio nights, which have all proved unique based upon the current membership of the building. Any dull moment — Pixley bemoans the fact that the building turns into "a ghost town" after the holidays — presents new possibilities.
The vibe of the Studio building's public events, and the daily life of the building itself, is contingent upon the artists, who are expected to attend meetings and contribute to events. Pixley sees it as something of a mission to keep the building a collective endeavor, always experimenting with new ideas and concepts. "We're peddling community," she says. "That's what we have to cultivate."
Pickwick, which was constructed in just a year (it's housed in a storage space that had been a dumping ground for exiting artists' leftovers), ought to serve that function well: a printing press by artists and for artists in the center of the heart of the Arts District, it's precisely the kind of operation that expands the potential of the local arts community.
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TANJA ALEXIA HOLLANDER | leader, Bakery Photo Collective | Keeping the photo studio doors open — and the darkrooms, of course, tightly shut
ANNIE LARMON | artist; writer | A young, dauntingly intelligent voice for our most adventurous artists
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MARK WETHLI | co-director, Coleman Burke galleries | Giving Tin Foil Man a rightful home: a gallery window
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