As has been extensively covered in the media, institutions of higher education are facing extreme fiscal challenges in the current economic climate: Governors are slashing funds for public institutions, tuition growth has slowed, and Moody’s issued a negative forecast for the sector again in 2015, as it has for the past three years. These trends suggest uncertainty for a number of disciplines including printmaking. In the interest of gaining an understanding of how the academic landscape in printmaking may be changing, I undertook a survey of university-based workshops. Given their connection with university curricula, these workshops provide some insight into the current economic and cultural environment for printmaking in academe. Interestingly, the responses suggest changes that will likely affect print publishing and artistic collaboration on a wider scale in the near future.
Over the past year, I interviewed seven prominent printshops: Graphicstudio (University of South Florida); Tamarind Institute (University of New Mexico); Tandem Press (University of Wisconsin-Madison), the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies (Columbia University); the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions (Rutgers); Anchor Graphics and the Center for Book and Paper Arts (Columbia College, Chicago); and Segura Arts Studio (University of Notre Dame). I asked the directors to comment on the impact of fiscal belt-tightening on operations, the challenges and benefits of functioning under the academic umbrella, and any significant recent or upcoming changes. Generally, their responses fell into two groups: workshops with a long history of self-sufficiency or large endowments report that relatively little has changed in terms of finances, while those that rely heavily on university funds have shifted focus, working diligently to raise funds and increase sales income. All concur, however, that fiscal pressures have sometimes brought about innovative approaches and fresh ideas for both marketing and publishing.
In the first camp are Graphicstudio, Tamarind Institute, Tandem Press and the Neiman Center. Graphicstudio, the first professional print publishing workshop to establish itself under a university aegis, was founded in 1968, followed quickly by Tamarind in 1970 (which had operated independently for a decade prior); Tandem was established in 1987 and the Neiman Center in 1996. Working in their favor, the first three have decades-long histories of self-sufficiency, well-established relationships with their hosting institutions, and solid reputations within the art world. Though the Neiman Center is a newcomer, it benefits from a generous endowment provided by Janet and LeRoy Neiman. On the other hand, the Brodsky Center, Segura Arts Studio and Anchor Graphics report an ongoing process of fiscal reorganization, driven by institutional and internal shifts.
Margaret Miller oversees three united programs at the University of South Florida in her role as director and professor of the Institute for Research in Art: Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum and the Public Art Program. The merger occurred in 2001 and Miller was appointed from her former position at the museum (which she held for 30 years) to “oversee and develop synergies” between the three organizations. She compares her position to that of a chair of a university department and explains that activities at Graphicstudio are research-driven rather than commercial. However, she reports that there is “tremendous pressure [from the administration] to be successful in the market” given the high overhead for materials, rent, salaries and upkeep (28% of Graphicstudio’s budget is provided by the university). Miller strongly feels that the key to long-term success for Graphicstudio is its emphasis on the innovative use of both traditional processes and new technologies, used to produce both prints and sculptures. Recent projects have included a basalt- and urethane-cast sculpture with acrylic polymer by Keith Edmier; unique large-scale cyanotypes with Christian Marclay, and unique multi-media bas-relief works by Iva Gueorguieva. Recently Graphicstudio has been placing greater emphasis on unique works, small editions and varied editions in response to shifts in contemporary art and collecting preferences. Miller explained that many European studios are also expanding the boundaries of the print/edition in a similar way and she will be speaking later this year at a conference in Norway that will address some of these new trends (Printmaking in the Expanded Field, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, September 15-18, 2015; Miller’s talk will be “The Transgressive Mark”).
In contrast to Graphicstudio, Tamarind Institute remains true to the time-honored precepts of lithography editions that are integral to its mission. Director Marjorie Devon attributes Tamarind’s success to the international scope of its training and outreach programs—including student enrollment, traveling exhibitions, lectures and workshops—and its dedicated alumni; currently, the workshop has made connections in 50 different countries. Although Tamarind is currently undergoing a major changing of the guard (three key officers are retiring in the coming year), this is not the result of fiscal or administrative pressures. Devon is among those who have announced her retirement (in early 2016—a search is underway) but she helped select Valpuri Kylmänen Remling as the new Master Printer who will oversee workshop operations when Bill Lagattuta retires this summer. (Education director Rodney Hamon is the third to retire, later this year.) Devon has led Tamarind through many changes since 1978, when then-director Clinton Adams brought her on staff to assist in the workshop’s goal of becoming self-supporting. Since assuming leadership of the organization in 1985, she has overseen a number of significant initiatives, including an updated edition of the Tamarind lithography “bible” (Tamarind Techniques for Fine Art Lithography, New York: Abrams, 2008), the expansion of Tamarind’s international presence, and the construction of a new facility in 2010. Self-sufficiency has almost become a reality, through a combination of sales, grants and fundraising; Devon explains that Tamarind continues to rely on UNM funding for “a small percentage of our operating costs” and for interns. UNM also provides opportunities for collaboration as well as an academic framework for Tamarind’s renowned Professional Printer Training Program and a new cooperative MFA. Nonetheless, Devon says there has been “increased pressure to generate more income to support our operating costs and special projects” in recent years with an emphasis on grant writing and fundraising over commercial sales.
Tandem Press, which was founded by UW-Madison Professor Bill Weege in 1987, has “always been obligated to be self-sufficient” according to director Paula Panczenko. Indeed, this fact is prominently displayed on the press’s quarterly newsletter with the phrase “a self-supporting printmaking studio.” Panczenko says that 85% of their revenues come from sales and 10% from fundraising (the remaining 5% is her salary, which is covered by the university). She adds that Tandem’s staff is “very aggressive in terms of sales strategies” and participate in a wide variety of print fairs across the country. For 22 years they have also hosted a yearly Wine Auction benefit event that has become a community tradition and an important fundraiser. Like Tamarind, Tandem is undergoing change that is unrelated to economic issues or administrative pressures: following the recent termination of their lease, the workshop is currently in a temporary home and has raised a third of the six million dollars needed for a new facility, which Panczenko hopes will include gallery space and separate workshops for different printmaking techniques. Tandem’s success hinges on the exceptional support for printmaking that has been characteristic of the university and the Madison community at large, as well as on its own flexibility as a studio: visiting artists can work in a variety of media from letterpress and digital to etching and lithography. Panczenko adds that Tandem benefits greatly from its collaborative relationship to the university, noting that a current project with students from the Center for Brand and Product Management will result in an expanded and improved website.
The model for the Neiman Center is slightly different than the above three workshops in that it has an independent endowment that covers overhead costs. This allows the workshop to take a more leisurely approach to editioning and fully integrate graduate fellows and other students into the professional printing process. All proceeds from sales go toward future collaborative projects and scholarships for students, according to assistant director Marie Tennyson. She notes that her experience at the Neiman is markedly different from ULAE, her former employer. “It’s not just about making dynamic and high quality editions (which we could do faster and more efficiently with five other master printers and a team of seasoned professionals). It’s about giving the MFA students experience and the opportunity to develop skills that they will later use in their own work or after they graduate.” (Doug Bennett, its current master printer, is a former Neiman Fellow and alum.) Of course, the center also benefits from the presence of high-profile artists associated with the university, such as Kiki Smith, Sarah Sze, Kara Walker, Gregory Amenoff, Sanford Biggers and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Given the lack of market pressure, artists working at Neiman “have the luxury to try different processes, experiment, and take their time … this flexibility often leads to ground-breaking and labor-intensive projects [such as] Ringers by David Altmejd” (see Art in Print 4, no. 6: 10 and online). Tennyson says the main challenge they face is lack of space, a common complaint in New York City.
Across the Hudson, the Brodsky Center finds itself in a much more precarious position. After an external review in early 2013, Rutgers officials determined that the workshop must transition to a self-supporting entity within four years; sales and funds from the annual benefit were not providing a sufficiently large percentage of operating costs. At the time, no director was in place, so Marti Mayo was hired as interim director (she holds the same position at the Zimmerli Museum and divides her time between the two institutions). Prior to her arrival the staff had been reduced to four full-time employees, including one master printer (Randy Hemminghaus) and one master papermaker (Anne McKeown); temporary part-time professional help supplements the core staff when needed. Mayo says the organization is making a number of “internal changes that will allow the studio to be more efficient and more involved in academic life at the university.” Proactive measures include a new marketing plan (including ramping up print fair participation) and closely tracking expenses and revenues for publications. Mayo also mentioned “a more contemporary and revised business model in working with artists” but did not disclose details. Like many university workshops, the Brodsky Center has always worked with student interns but in the interest of optimizing the Brodsky’s relationship with Rutgers, Mayo has formulated a new Academic Advisory Council that includes faculty from across the university. Mayo says its priority is to promote interdisciplinary opportunities and “develop progressive initiatives that allow us to be ahead of the curve.”
Anchor Graphics and the Center for Book and Paper Arts (CBPA) at Columbia College, Chicago, are also restructuring in response to administrative mandate. The two workshops have operated as separate entities in the past but are planning to merge. Founded in 1988 by master printer David Jones and artist Marilyn Propp, Anchor Graphics operated independently for nearly two decades before it joined Columbia College in 2006. Jones, who now serves as executive director, explains that Anchor had relied heavily on funds from granting agencies when independent but this has become more difficult under the college umbrella (Propp teaches at Columbia but is no longer directly involved with the workshop). Following a 2010 reorganization of the school, Anchor was “recommended for phase-out” and lost its assistant director. In response, Jones approached Stephen Woodall, the director of CBPA, and Melissa Potter, a professor and director of the school’s MFA program in Book and Paper Arts, about integrating operations. Due to the fact that CBPA is woven into the 3-year MFA program, it was in a stronger position to weather the reorganization. The three convinced the administration to move forward with the plan. Woodall notes that the two workshops have worked together for years so the merger is a natural progression; he believes that their combination will represent a unique resource nationwide. Potter adds, “It will improve what we can do with the graduate program 10-fold.” However, she cautions that the administration will expect the new entity “to function on two levels: as a curricular arm of the academic program and a monetized nonprofit entity” and will be looking for “measurable progress” moving forward. As a result, they are devising tangible ways to track student outcomes at the same time they are developing a strategy for increasing sales revenues. They hope to announce a new name for the combined workshops in the fall of 2015; a retrospective exhibition of Anchor Graphics publications will be held his summer to mark the change.
Segura Arts Studio (SAS) is the most recent professional printmaking workshop to join academe; it opened its new doors at the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2013 following a four-year planning process. Founded in 1981 by master printer Joe Segura under the name Segura Publishing Company, the shop operated independently in the Tempe, Arizona area for nearly three decades. One important reason the university brought the studio under its wing was to promote interaction between academic and community life in South Bend. SAS, which is situated off-campus near downtown, provides a venue for community outreach: visiting artists are asked to interact with the residents of South Bend as well as with students and faculty. Segura’s historical commitment to minority artists also mirrors the university’s focus on social justice (see “Segura Reborn at University of Notre Dame,” Graphic Impressions: The Newsletter of SGC International, Summer 2014: 5-6). Its current staff includes Segura, master printer Jill Lerner, production printer Jessica O’Hearn, and assistant director Douglas Franson, who holds an MBA and guides the studio’s marketing and sales activities. While Notre Dame offered an initial hand-up and some ongoing administrative and capital support (in connection with the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture), the studio is expected to be largely self-supporting within a few years. Franson has organized a number of initiatives, including participation in the 2014 Ink Miami Art Fair and the 2015 IFPDA Print Fair in New York.
It is clear that professional printmaking studios in university settings are reacting dynamically to the pressures bearing on academic entities around the country. Those that have relied heavily on institutional funds are shifting toward greater self-sufficiency, while those that have always functioned independently are working to maintain their position. Graphicstudio, Tamarind, and Tandem—which have long provided for their own budgetary needs—point to different ways forward, respectively: technical innovation, global reach and diversification. Meanwhile, outside academe, the landscape of print publishing is also in flux: a number of new gallery-based imprints are joining the fray (the subject of a future post) and online retailers have also made inroads into the traditionally hands-on business of print collecting (see “Gold Rush: Editions Take Center Stage in a New Era of Art E-Commerce” INK, August 18, 2013). For the Brodsky Center, Anchor Graphics/CBPA and Segura Arts Studio, success will hinge on developing unique capabilities and market share in order to compete in the publishing environment at large while also developing a strong role in the academic programs of their respective institutions. Hopefully this will mean greater learning opportunities for students together with fresh and enticing publications for collectors.