Last winter’s mildness, says Woodstock School of Art executive director Chris Seubert, helped make this summer’s progress finishing up the renovations in the bluestone campus’ fabled printmaking studio possible.
“We’re not completely finished,” he said on a recent Saturday afternoon that found him working on lockers and other details in the 77-year-old structure, beloved even in its earlier state.
Now the place all but sparkles, from its shiny radiant flooring to the new windows created to look like what had been there since its early days as a New Deal crafts training center during the last years of the Depression, and its later time as an upstate home for New York City’s Arts Students League. The ceilings have been opened up to the roofline, with old beams now painted white. A second carved plate by master bluestone sculptor Tomas Penning was brought out from a wall that had hosted lockers for years; the large star-wheeled manual press said to have belonged and been used by George Bellows, is now in a prominent place in what had been a studio used by sculptors and ironworkers.
More importantly, a new series of monoprints created by some of the region’s top artists in all fields will be the focus of a new exhibit, The Monoprint Invitational Exhibition, opening with a reception 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, October 15 for a run into December. The opening will stretch from the Angeloch galleries to the printmaking studios where all the magic happened.
Among those who’ve made works are Julio Valdez, Florence Neal, Richard Segalman, Mariella Bisson, Donald Elder, Mary Frank, Jenny Nelson, Tatiana Kellner, Kathy Ruttenberg and Milton and Shirley Glaser…as well as the directors of other arts institutions in town, including WAAM’s Janice LaMotta, the Photography Center’s Hannah Frieser, and Rich Conti of Byrdcliffe’s ceramics program.Seubert pointed out the use of reworked woods, and casters on most elements for things to stay flexible so everything from exhibits to dinners can take place in what’s known, on campus, as the Works on Paper studios. He drew attention to a carefully carved J in the same wall as the large glass windows said to have been designed by Penning. Who did it? No one knows.
What is known, and celebrated, are the various old presses that have been brought back into use, including WSA founder Bob Angeloch’s, plus an equally vintage book press. Also, the fact that the revived place is opened up and flexible, its bluestone highlighted, its expanses uncluttered…and yet ready for a mass of new work to equal all that was created there over previous years when the studio was treasured for its funky embrace of a long history.
New work such as that which has already been coming out of the new studios since earlier in the summer for the new exhibition.
“In eight days, we hosted 43 artists, all of whom have a relationship to monotype, the school, or me,” said WSA president Kate McGloughlin of this summer’s monotype workshops, where artists were paired with master printers and an assistant, sometimes singly, other times in groups. “In order to celebrate the new version of our wonderful old studios, we thought it fitting to have an event that would bring some attention to the new facility. I wanted to honor some artist friends by treating them like gold for a few hours — we treated invited artists to ink, paper, press assistants, the guidance of a master printer, and either a sumptuous lunch or dinner, and the best cup of coffee in the world, (my father’s formula, a WSA graphics tradition). All they were asked to do was come and work, and give us a print for the show…we did the rest.”
McGloughlin carefully noted all that made the renovation work — Marilyn Kaplan of Preservation Architecture and the “artist-builders” at J.O.B. Construction. She gave a shout out to master printers Anthony Kirk, Lisa Mackey, and Kathy Caraccio, the students and young artists who worked as assistants throughout recent months, and some key donors for the monoprint workshops, Eileen Power, Mary Cone and Laurie Ylvisaker; Dick Blick and Speedball Inks; Bistro-to-Go, Catskill Mountain Pizza, and Joshua’s; as well as all who gave to the renovation fund over recent years.
“What was designed as a print summit became a love fest, and I couldn’t have been happier…all my favorite things — printmaking, the WSA print shop, other artists, good food and fellowship all in one place in a marathon great vibe that lasted over a week,” the always enthusiastic printmaker and painter added. “I was pulling 12 hours days and couldn’t wait to bounce out of bed and get there the next day to work with the next crew… though it was somewhat exhausting, it was one of the most exhilarating weeks we’ve ever had at the school.
As for the space itself, McGloughlin talked about how she was happy making prints in the old Studio 3 from the first moment she stepped in there 25 years ago “when we brought in our own water and there was duct tape everywhere” through decades of minor changes…until it was clear that it needed real renovation.
“The studio is fantastic! It’s beautiful and totally conducive to work,” added Milton Glaser. “It’s well-equipped, but the most important thing about everything is atmosphere, and the beautiful atmosphere here encourages you to do your best.”
Roberta Sickler added mention of the skylights; Donald Elder said he was ready to move in.
“So state-of-the-art, but also it really has retained the feelings that I felt here so long ago, you know, it still feels like home,” said Elin Menzies. “It has that warm comforting atmosphere the supports artists to create, to deliver their most original part and pull it up.”
Added Seubert, “It’s making us a destination for printmakers. People are saying it’s the best facility of its kind on the east coast… However much it cost, it was money well spent. We take the stewardship of our buildings here very seriously.”
McGloughlin, who also curated the new monoprint exhibit with master printer Kirk, added, in her inimitable way, that “Woodstock needed a cathedral, so we built one.”
The Monoprint Invitational Exhibition, a celebration of the monoprint medium, featuring some of WSA’s more prominent artist friends and this beautiful new studio, opens Saturday, October 15 with a reception from 3p.m. to 5 p.m. with a party afterwards in the new studios, then runs through December 17 at the Robert H. Angeloch Gallery , 2470 Rte 212, Woodstock. Call 679-2388 or see www.woodstockschoolofart.org for more information.