As patrons enter the doors of Lincoln Square’s Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, they are welcomed by shelves stacked with materials used in printmaking—like brushes, inks, and different types of paper. A handmade sign reading “Keep it tidy!” guards jars of ink stacked on top of each other. Across the shelves of supplies, art created by the collaborative’s printmakers is displayed for visitors to view and purchase.
Where the art ready for display ends, the workshop space, walled off from the rest of the shop, begins. The workshop space is where printmakers work on their designs, printmaking classes are taught by seasoned artists, and art print lovers can connect.
The collaborative, located at 4912 N. Western Ave., is a space unique to other galleries or print shops in Chicago. The collaborative functions as a space to create, observe and educate on printmaking and art prints.
Megan Sterling, the assistant director of the collaborative, said the collaborative is more than just a gallery because of the ability for artists to create, display and sell their work in a single space.
“I think what we have [that sets us apart from other galleries] is that we’re an actual working and functioning print shop where people come to make their work,” Sterling said. “A lot of the work we display is produced by artists, whereas other galleries are just art on the wall where people can look at and experience the work.”
Robert Rusch has been an intern at the Collaborative for four months. Rusch, who is also an artist in the community, said the Collaborative balances the focuses of selling art with its storefront and creating art with its workshop space.
“There is a pretty good, even split between a creative space and a small business space. I don’t think either side of that model steps on each other’s feet,” Rusch said. “Both sides work harmoniously with each other, and I like that aspect.”
Sterling said because of the nature of printmaking, like the ability to create small batches of prints at a low cost on an artist’s part, the artwork sold by the collaborative is more affordable than other fine art pieces—and the affordability makes the art more accessible.
“It is not just elite people who can afford to buy the work. It is more of a range of us common folk that can also appreciate and buy art,” Sterling said.
Ron Keeney, 53, is a design manager at a government printing office in Washington, D.C., and visited the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative for the first time during its 27th annual small print art show on Dec. 3. Keeney said it was refreshing to see the barrier taken down between an artist’s process and an art piece’s display.
“I’m mostly a museum-goer, and things are so curated at museums. A space like this is different and exciting,” Keeney said. “It’s brought people in the space that are actually creating, and they have their work up on the wall. There’s no filter between the creation of the art and the art’s display.”
Deborah Maris Lader, executive director and founder of the Collaborative, said patrons should know the steps in creating an art print.
“In most galleries, people don’t have the actual access to materials and technical information. For us, it is very important that people understand what goes between printmaking and a print,” Lader said.
Lader added that engaging with the Lincoln Square community and educating locals is an important goal of the Collaborative.
“We bring in the neighbors and the alderman. We invite them in certain days of the week so that they feel that this is part of their community as well,” Lader said. “Then they get enlightened from the work we’re showing here, and they get to participate as a student, as a buyer, as an observer to look at really cool art. And then we educate them as we walk around.”