Performance Printing


When the Fourth Annual DownStreet Art initiative opens on Thursday, June 23, at least one gallery will include an interactive element that will have visitors creating some art of their own.

Curated by Melanie Mowinski, an assistant professor of visual art at MCLA, "PRESS: Letterpress as a Public Art Project" brings the private practice of the pressperson into the view of the public, creating a performance of printmaking. As she explains it, the endeavor reminds older art enthusiasts of past processes and introduces an unknown way of making multiple prints to a generation that links printing to inkjets and lasers.

"It's always been my dream to have some sort of a center that's open to the public that shares archaic and retro styles of making things with other people," Mowinski said. "I had this press. I wanted to do something with it. It seemed like a perfect match to have a gallery, have a working space, and have it be open to the public."

For this workshop and gallery, Mowinski installed an 1,800-pound Vandercook proof press - founded in 1909 by Chicago newspaperman Robert Vandercook - in a storefront, giving the public an opportunity to see, smell and feel the tangible aspects of letterpress printing.

This public art project focuses on the fine art aspects of the printing craft by creating prints using relief, type, polymer plates and experimental techniques like pressure printing. Printmaking techniques that do not use a press - like stencil, frottage and stamping - also will be incorporated.

"It's magical. It's pretty incredible what you can achieve with a letterpress," Mowinski said.

Throughout the summer and fall, she may be found printing in the shop during DownStreet hours. This public performance of making relief prints, setting type and locking it up will share a variety of printmaking processes with the public. Some of the prints made will be for sale; some will be given away.

A number of classes, workshops and demonstrations will be offered throughout the summer, including "Painted Papers. Prints. Book Arts." This MCLA summer course will begin on June 27, and will use the gallery space for one of its projects.

On Aug. 13, in partnership with IS 183, Mowinski will offer "Experiments in Pressure." A simple process, pressure printing takes very low relief paper collages and prints them through pressure on an inked surface.

Other workshops will be announced at .

Three different shows of letterpress printed work will open on the DownStreet Art Thursdays.

On June 23, the "Hartford Prints!" exhibit will celebrate the work of Hartford Prints, which were created by 10 students from Hartford Public High School who learned the craft of letterpress. This exhibit will feature 36-framed prints created during the inaugural run of the program.

On July 28, "PRESS" will present "The EXCHANGE," which will highlight exchanges - which are the heart of every printmaking program and printmaker's future, according to Mowinski.

Every fall, incoming MFA candidates at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Penn., create a print using various letterpress techniques, making enough to exchange a copy with their fellow students. This exhibit will highlight those different processes and themes.

On Aug. 25, "This one goes to ELEVEN" will open. The exhibit will feature work created in the space during June, July and August. It will feature pressure prints, linoleum prints, prints created with moveable type, as well as book art and paste papers.

PRESS is at 105 Main St. in North Adams. For more information, go to or contact