They don’t generate the buzz that Chicago’s craft brewers do, but the city’s independent printmakers are aiming to get some attention of their own on Sunday by borrowing a trick from the beer-makers and opening their shops to the public with the first “Chicago print crawl.”
Unlike brewers, who often operate out of taprooms and brewpubs in view of customers or who host tours of their facilities, printmakers typically labor behind closed doors.
The event, put together by West Town’s Spudnik Press, will offer a behind-the-scenes look at more than a half-dozen printmaking studios, including cooperatives housing multiple printers. Also open will be galleries and shops that support these artists’ work.
It’s a do-it-yourself affair, with patrons invited to choose their own route for a free tour of sites stretching from Bridgeport to Garfield Park to Ravenswood. They will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, with demonstrations and some opportunities to make your own prints. There’s an after-party at 6 p.m. at Spudnik, 1821 W. Hubbard St.
The crawl was Angee Lennard’s idea. She opened Spudnik Press in 2007 as a cooperative where members could work and exhibit printing projects.
Printers often like to visit other printers’ studios, which can be loaded with cool looking gadgets and equipment. So Lennard says she figured why not throw the doors open for a day to the public, too.
Styled on the lines of a pub crawl, the print version aims to leave people with a greater appreciation of printmaking, which is used in everything from stationery to gig posters to T-shirts, according to Lennard.
“We have people call, they think that we’re Kinko’s,” she says. “A handmade print is a labor of love. I’m hoping people take all sorts of things away — a deeper understanding, a deeper respect not just for printmaking but the craftsmanship.”
Lennard says she included retail shops to help people make the connection between what happens in the studio and, say, the posters or cards they can find for sale, and involving art galleries was to show prints can be a type of fine art.
“We’re trying to build print enthusiasts,” she says.
The scope of old school printmaking that can still be found in Chicago today is partly the result of the city’s former status as a key commercial printing hub.
“The commercial side has floundered,” Lennard says, even for smaller things like printed business cards, largely thanks to digital technology.
But she says that one result of commercial printers closing is that “there’s a lot more equipment floating around.”
Greeting cards and wedding invitations have kept some printers afloat. Some have carved a niche making “gig posters” for bands and venues. Others are sustaining themselves as part of Chicago’s thriving comic book and zine community.
Printmaking also has a role in advocacy, Lennard says, with printers incorporating messages onto everything from sketchbooks to tote bags to pennants and patches.