In 2009, some of these artists and writers talked about creating an interdisciplinary book arts center, both to bring together people who traditionally work in isolation and to promote local arts. They didn’t get funding for such a center but pressed on anyway. Meeting at the alternative SWEAT Records space in Little Haiti, they decided on a broadsheet project, where an artist and writer would be paired to produce one 12- by 18-inch page of text and visuals. Once upon a time, before radio and TV and the Internet, broadsheets — tacked on to walls and poles — were the vehicles used to deliver news, advertise, promote a political cause and publically publish prose and poetry. These would be a 21st century version.
With no money but lots of sweat and hard work 75 broadsheets materialized, made from everything from collage to inkjet, silkscreen and woodcut prints, organized chiefly by artists Tom Virgin and Lea Nicklass and poet Michael Hettich.
In 2012 during the International Book Fair, they were exhibited at the MDC Wolfson Campus Center Gallery. There are far too many interesting broadsheet couplings to list here, but just some of them include Lydia Rubio and Hettich; Rosemarie Chiarlone (visuals) and Susan Weiner; Brian Reedy and P. Scott Cunningham (of the O Miami poetry project); Virgin and Campbell McGrath.
According to Virgin, the dream of an arts book center has not died, it just might take some time. He believes that creating a tangible, visible presence for the world of words is important, and that building a community among groups that should have a natural affinity for each others’ genre — authors and artists — is also valuable.
The complete portfolio is currently housed at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University and will also be with MDC and public library system. Another exhibit is planned for fall 2014, says Jeremy Mikolajcsak, executive director of the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design, along with a collaboration with the Center for Book Arts in New York.
Meanwhile, after some fits and starts, the Turn-Based Press has found a huge home in downtown Miami. Founder and artist Kathleen Hudspeth explains that the mission of Turn-Based is both to provide a physical work space for people to learn, and then practice, printmaking, but also to facilitate communication among artists. Like those behind the broadsheet project, she realized that artists in any discipline often work alone and can become isolated from ideas. And books after all, “historically are a principle way of communication,” she says.
In a space shared with several studios and alternative galleries, Turn-Based Press — which has received a Knight Arts Challenge Grant — opened its first exhibit of works on paper this summer. “The Hasty Show” included inkjet prints, engravings, zines and self-published books from artists across the country.
Behind the exhibition area, the sprawling workshop is under construction. Eventually it will house four etching presses, work stations and storage space for prints that are being created on-site. Hudspeth says “it’s important to foster a collaborative process,” where people can literally turn to one another while making art.
The goal is to have members who already know print-making and need the facility, and workshops for the general public. While members will be able to use the space during regular hours, workshops will be held in the evenings and last about four to six weeks for a course.