Paper presented by Angela Gardner, at The Fifth Australian Print Symposium,
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2004
Impress Printmaker’s Studio Brisbane Inc. By Angela Gardner (2004)
Background: Impress is a recently formed, incorporated, non profit organization committed to developing a much needed access studio for printmakers and the general public for Brisbane and the surrounding area. Although Impress is still very young, we have already achieved a great deal in our short life. There is, however, still a great deal to do.
Due to the range of processes, the expensive costs of the equipment and the complex occupational health and safety standards required in printmaking, very few printmakers are able to continue their practice in Brisbane without such a facility. Many of our members are printmaking graduates from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University and their enthusiasm for this project is indicative of the pressing need for such a facility. Our members are personally aware of the disillusionment of completing university only to find there is nowhere to go to continue their practice on completion of their studies. Consequently many of our talented printmakers are abandoning their practice and moving into other professional areas.
Recent talks with Ida Burke from Queensland University of Technology have revealed that their printmaking students are experiencing the same disillusionment. Brisbane is one of the few major cities in Australia that has not yet fulfilled the need for such a facility.
Looking beyond University Deb Russell and fellow printmaking student at QCA (Queensland College of Art) Wendy Howard started a printmaking club in 2001. In her second year of a Bachelor’s degree, Debra Russell started researching information on print access studios around Australia in order to give a seminar as part of her studies. She was amazed to discover that all state capitals and many regional areas have print access studios while Brisbane still did not have such a facility. In contacting places like the Australian Print Workshop Melbourne and the Community Printmaker’s Murwillumbah (CPM) she learnt a lot about the possibilities for personal skill development, the benefits of access studios and for community involvement.
Queensland College of Art has hosted, since it was started in 2001, an incredibly successful print club operating out of the Printmaking Department. As with most university clubs the faces of the office bearers change as students buckle down to the final year workload or graduate, but the activities of the Print Club continue smoothly. With an array of sports or recreation clubs it is somewhat surprising that The Griffith Printmaker’s Club brought in more money (in 2002) claiming the top spot as Griffith’s most successful student club ahead of the usual clubs devoted to skiing, eating chocolate or drinking beer! How did they do it? An amazingly dedicated team involved themselves in buying paper and reselling it (effectively passing on near wholesale prices to their to members), organising print auctions, prize raffles, folio boxes and group shows. They aimed to operate at a profit and raise the profile of printmakers in the process – they did both successfully.
These activities have resulted in a highly motivated, well-trained group of emerging print-makers with nowhere to go after their stint at university was over. The skills learnt included the documentation, curating, and hanging of work; the organisation of auctions including advertising and saleroom practice, while for the folio boxes there was contact with paper and solander box manufacturers to organise sponsorship and liaison with public organizations such as The State Library of Queensland so the folios would enter their collections. The professional practice taught at university was put into practice as emerging printmakers contacted galleries and in one case, The Little Stanley Street Gallery formerly Star Gallery, started running a gallery to showcase the work coming out of the department.
By this time Debra was organising the latest folio box and getting through her Honours year and Louise French, as then current President of the Printmakers Club, was grappling with the finances of the very successful Printmakers Club. It is often thought that art students couldn’t even organise a piss up in a brewery, or alternatively that is the only thing they can organise, yet seeing Louise get all the money to balance and write up the profit and loss statement with the emphasis on the profit was a lesson in what enthusiasm and commitment can achieve when there is a clear target in mind.
At the end of that year the realities of the lack of opportunities for printmakers in Brisbane and the pool of experience in committee work, organising events, management, finance pushed this group into doing something about it. Printmakers Naomi Takeifanga, and Amanda Smith had made an earlier attempt at getting a print access studio for Brisbane. They had seventy members with a small and enthusiastic but relatively inexperienced committee for the huge task of getting things moving. Deb concluded that she would need to recruit a team large enough to share the workload, draw on the expertise of the many successful access workshops around Australia and create the foundations of the organization in such a way that they could take future growth.
The first meeting was held in February this year and attracted approximately 50 attendees showing that this venture will benefit Brisbane printmakers as a whole. We are actively looking for printmakers from QUT (Queensland University of Technology) and the wider community to join us. From this group a committee was elected. At this point I’d like to introduce the committee: President: Deb Russell, Secretary: Louise French, Treasurer: Monique Nicholson, Vice President Suzanne Danaher, and the other committee members Angela Gardner, Caitlin Sheedy, Joanne Theis, Amy Wilson and John Doyle.
The other issues of that first meeting were the writing of a mission statement, becoming an incorporated body and deciding on a name. Choosing a name seemed one of the most problematic. It took about three meetings to resolve the name issue. It came down to Impress and the late-nominated BAT Editions (for bon a tirer) and Impress won the vote.
MISSION STATEMENT • To provide safe, affordable access to exhibition space, printmaking equipment and workshop facilities for art workers in Brisbane and the surrounding areas.
• To provide a stimulating environment that embraces both traditional and contemporary printmaking processes as well as reflecting the changing needs of the arts community and providing greater community access to arts and culture.
• To provide developmental opportunities for Brisbane printmakers and the wider community by conducting innovative workshops under the tuition of professionally practising artists.
• To provide a relaxed environment that will encourage local artists to seek out the company and stimulation of their colleagues.
• To encourage those with disabilities and those from culturally diverse groups to become involved in the centre’s operation and use of facilities.
• To provide future employment for local artists whenever the centre can sustain such positions.
A collaborative approach The committee was also given the mandate to pursue links with other printmaking studios and with professional bodies. So far we have contacted and had replies from The Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne, Megalo in Canberra, Community Printmaker’s Murwillumbah (probably our closest neighbour!), The Printmakers Association of Western Australia and the Newcastle Printmaker’s Workshop. The Printmakers Association of Western Australia has already suggested the possibility of staging a collaborative exhibition or event with us in the future and there is also discussion of the Hong Kong access studio joining us in such a venture. We have also had preliminary talks with Queensland Artworker’s Alliance and Christine Campbell the executive officer of Flying Arts. Joe Airo Furillo of Gallery 482 has written a letter of support and Noreen Grahame of Grahame Galleries and Editions has become a member. Both of these are already great supporters of printmaking in Brisbane. We have also been talking to local Art Colleges The Queensland College of Art and Queensland University of Technology regarding support and equipment. One of the benefits for Brisbane universities and TAFEs offering printmaking courses is that potential students will know this facility is available on completion of their studies.
We realised that our organization has a greater chance of reaching our objectives if we acquire letters of support from individuals and organizations who are aware that there is a gap in Brisbane for a printmakers access studio, that there is a great need for this facility and that this project has the potential of fostering the development of the arts in Brisbane as well creating employment and engaging the community in collaborative ventures. The information and advice we received from a number of studios around Australia will be very beneficial in setting up our own workshop. Members have been actively networking with other organizations and various professionals to develop an archive of information relating to the issues such as fundraising, grants, accounting, equipment and occupational health and safety.
Two committee members Suzanne Danaher and Angela Gardner attended Place Made : 5th Australian Print Symposium in Canberra and made and renewed many useful contacts. (Note: also delivered this Paper)
A three-stage plan Level 1 The strategy for the growth and development of Impress incorporates three levels of activity. Currently at level one, we are facilitating growth by taking the appropriate steps toward developing an operational and business infrastructure to work within the arts industry. In this we have been greatly assisted by the advice of Jenny Wilson, Business Development Manager at the Office of Commercialisation Griffith University. Getting incorporated, opening bank accounts having committee meetings – yes we’d rather be in the studio pulling prints!
One of the first things we realised was that we would need lots of money to prime the pump. We have come up with a fund raising activity called the 500 Club – to decide on this meant we contacted the Office of Fair Trading and the Queensland Treasury Department. Now our members are engaged in selling raffle tickets with the aim of getting enough money to pay Public Liability Insurance. Our membership fee income has gone in Incorporation, telephone and postage expenses and hiring a truck to move equipment, donated by Darren Jones, to a space under the house of our Treasurer Monique Nicholson. Another committee member, John Doyle, has drying racks and plan chests donated by QCA under his house. Other fundraising efforts have paid for a Common Seal (this is not the cute marine variety).
We are developing an Occupational Health and Safety policy drawing on the expertise of successful Australian access studios and other aware and proficient professionals in the printmaking arena. We are about to appoint an Occupational Health and Safety officer to present policy issues to the committee in readiness for immediate implementation once premises are found for Impress Printmaker’s Studio. Areas of interest are: • Risk Assessment of tools machinery and chemicals. • Emergency Procedures (including First Aid) • Workshop & Safety Rules • Creation of Material Safety Data Sheets • Proficiency Certification for demonstrated competency
Once we have public liability insurance in place we will be able to register with the community-leasing unit at Brisbane City Council to locate a suitable central low rent space in Brisbane to commence operations. The space needed would be at least 250 square metres that would not be too hot and that could be, or is, well ventilated. This being Brisbane we also need the floor of this space to be adequate to support the weight of the presses and other heavy equipment used in printmaking. There are a lot of wooden buildings in Brisbane and I can imagine our presses (when we get them!) making short work of floorboards.
We have heeded Murwillumbah’s advice about a newsletter for members and our first one will be sent out in April. They also sent us an invitation to see their set-up, and if any of our members are down their way we will certainly take up that invitation. Our website will be operational soon at www.impress.org.au
Level 2 Our aim is to approach level two of our strategy as a growing organization that seeks to employ permanent full time staff as well as part time positions for workshop program tutors. We are also planning to develop an archive of prints for future generations, pulled from each edition printed in the studio. Other printmaking studio’s around the country have included this in their range of activities and through this initiative many prints have entered public collections (such as the acquisition of work from Australian Print Workshop by The National Gallery of Australia and work from Studio One entering the collection of the Canberra Museum and Gallery. At this level our plan is to provide safe, affordable access to exhibition space and specialised printmaking equipment, as well as a supporting program of workshops for both professional printmakers and the wider community thus fostering the development of the arts in Brisbane with the overall benefits that will bring.
Level 3 Level three of our strategy incorporates community engagement. At this level Impress will actively encourage collaborative ventures with outside artists, organizations and the wider community. Other community engagement possibilities could include a Brisbane Print Award, a scholarship for a graduating university or TAFE student, or an exhibition of selected graduates or emerging printmakers. Collaborative links leading to travelling Exhibitions and career development for professional artists are also possible. As we are still at level one of our development strategy, these possibilities are thoughts for the future and our testimony that we plan to be a vibrant and progressive organization.
And now… We have achieved a great deal in the last two months. Impress aims to embrace the wider community and fosters the development of the arts by reflecting the changing needs of the arts community. We do not have a space yet, but are confident that we will get things going – we’ll get back to you!