Start the Presses: RISD, AS220 Bring Printing Power to the People
Before Movable Type was a blogging platform, it was a technology breakthrough in its own right, allowing printing to become a widespread way of disseminating information, not unlike blogging in its effects on culture and society.
Though there may be endless debate these days about whether or not print is dead, it is alive and well atAS220’s Printshop which recently held an open house for its newly expanded facilities on the Mercantile Block in downtown Providence.
RISD alumni, faculty, area artists and arts supporters turned out in large numbers to celebrate the opening and the addition of the RISD-donated Takach Etching Press which, at 10.5 x 4.5 feet, is one of the largest etching presses ever built.
Morgan Calderini 07 PR, Printshop Director and the catalyst who brought RISD and AS220 together on this project, recalled that as a student at RISD, she had seen the press in storage. After graduating, she and fellow RISD Printmaking alumni started thePrintshop, then housed in the Dreyfus building, to have a place in Providence to continue making art. She later approached Printmaking Department HeadHenry Ferrera and RISD Provost Jessie Shefrin to offer the press a home where it would be put to good use.
In addition to offering classes on everything from letterpress printing to silk-screening to offset lithography, the Printshop is available for local artists and non-profit organizations to rent time on the presses for a fraction of the cost elsewhere, and also provides a space for artists to come together and share ideas on works-in-progress. They even offer a print camp for kids during school vacation week!
The new space brings the Printshop together with other facilities for artists including a photography lab (both darkroom and digital) and a Fab Lab, where kids and adults alike can learn to use tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers to make almost anything.
People bring their own experience and interests, says Fab Lab coordinator James Rutter. For example, past participants have included a doctor who wanted to learn how to fabricate medical prototypes and artists who want to learn how to incorporate electronics into their work.
“The facilities are available to all artists and printmakers regardless of skill level,” says Calderini. “Never before has one print shop been equipped the way AS220 is. We are thrilled that one can spend an afternoon using vintage type from our collection or creating their own on the Fab Lab laser cutter. Thanks to RISD’s support, the AS220 Printshop offers unparalleled opportunities to students and members of the community alike.”
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An interview with Literary Arts and Studies faculty member Taylor Polites, who encourages students to engage with Providence’s rich history and diverse community.
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