THE NEWARK PRINT SHOP
A CONVERSATION WITH FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR LISA CONRAD
THE PRINT SHOP BEGAN IN YOUR HOME STUDIO IN 2012. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT ITS INCEPTION? WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO FORMALLY ESTABLISH NPS, AND BECOME A RESOURCE FOR THE NEWARK COMMUNITY?
The print shop happened organically, and has been growing steadily ever since. It started out of the desire to share a process that I had fallen in love with and felt was inaccessible to many people. I moved to Newark in 2010 into an active artist building at 585 Broad Street that housed studios and initiatives including Index Art Center. Living there was a huge inspiration to me as a young emerging artist. After living in the building for almost 3 years, a space finally opened up, and I activated it as my personal art studio for printmaking.
The shift from a personal art studio into a communal space happened pretty quickly and grew out of the desire to share with other creatives this space that I felt so fortunate to have. I started opening up the studio on Wednesday nights and coined it “Print Club” The shop was still make-shift: a small donated table-top etching press, thermofax machine, and silkscreen set up in the closet. But despite the modest set up, folks still came through regularly. This confirmed to me the validity of what I was doing. In many ways, Print Club is the seed that Newark Print Shop grew from, and remains to be the hub of what we do.
REFLECTING ON THE LAST 6 YEARS- WHAT ARE A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS & MILESTONES?
The journey for the Newark Print Shop has not always been easy, but despite the tribulations, the project has continued to be blessed. Less than a year in, we were displaced abruptly due to an unfortunate fire. Getting the project back off the ground into our second location was definitely a milestone. Artists Jackie Cruz, Samer Fouad, and Stephen McKenzie joined me in spearheading Newark Print Shop in the new location. I learned a lot in the process; most importantly that if you put all of your good faith effort into something worth energizing, it is magnetized, and people will back it. We were able to open up at University Avenue due to the help of a lot of folks believing in my dream. I am extremely grateful for that. I would say another milestone is when Rutgers University-Newark approached us in the summer of 2014 to be a partner of their developing project, now called Express Newark. Launching EN as the inaugural resident community partner reaffirmed the importance of the work we were doing and helped us to gain further visibility. We are very grateful for their support in our growth.
YOU BECAME A MOTHER IN THE PAST COUPLE YEARS. HOW HAS THIS INFLUENCED SOME OF THE PROGRAMS THAT NPS OFFERS?
Being a mother has actually given me more discipline and drive towards the goal of seeing the print shop become a successful and sustainable printmaking facility for years to come. It is my legacy, and a way for me to express to my son that it is possible to pursue your dreams and to carve out your own path; that in this life, anything is possible.
My son Jali is growing up in the print shop, so it is important to me that the shop is a welcoming space for him and other children. Traditional printmaking facilities are often pretty toxic spaces, but Newark Print Shop uses non-toxic materials and contemporary approaches to printmaking, from water-based screen printing inks to soy-based etching inks. I also launched several programs in the past few years, which were definitely inspired by Jali: Pint-Sized Print Club for pre-school aged children, Mommy & Me Printing, and Homeschool Print Club. I envision an entire space dedicated to children called the Little Newark Print Shop and hope our future includes a space large enough to accomplish this vision!
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE PRINT SHOP IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS?
I see the print shop in a more permanent home, housing all of our staple programs with the addition of a storefront marketplace, artist studios, and the Little Print Shop. I also see Print Club annexes in neighboring cities including my former home, Philadelphia. These annexes will house screen printing labs specifically for entrepreneurs, artists, and community members. I know the impact that Print Club has had on Newark, and want to see this program as a resource for other communities too. I am working diligently on manifesting these dreams.
WHAT CHANGES OR CHALLENGES DO YOU SEE COMING UP IN THE NEAR FUTURE FOR THE LARGER NEWARK ARTS COMMUNITY?
We are in the midst of a shift in the Newark arts community, where large anchor institutions are growing and receiving funding, and smaller organizations are being less supported. The Newark Print Shop came to be through the access of really cheap space.
In recent years, there is less and less accessibility to affordable space- so I see less and less opportunity. I see the future of Newark Arts to be heavily top down and institutional, which in many ways opposes genuine grassroots innovation.