This story begins in 1980 in east Cambridge, MA where four artists ran a cooperative printmaking studio for 4 adventurous years. We survived a fire, blizzards, changes of partnership, many parties, and many late nights working on prints. Two of us are still studio partners, and the other two are still close friends and colleagues.
We pooled our resources to purchases presses, build tables, and equip a studio. Some of that same equipment is still with us at Mixit Print Studio, thirty years later.
Many things came out of that studio even after it disbanded in 1985. One was a lasting friendship with artist-activist Kim Berman. She came to Boston at age 21, fleeing South Africa’s repressive apartheid regime to study at the SMFA. And she became our shop assistant and chief printer. Her summer in Boston extended into a seven year stay. Besides becoming an excellent printmaker and occasional lecturer at the SMFA, she raised money for her cause and smuggled illegal documents out of South Africa to the international press. She made the South African struggle real and immediate for all of us.
In 1989 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he issued a call to all South Africans to build a new, democratic South Africa based on reconciliation, cultural diversity, equality, and above all human rights. Kim answered that call. She sold all her belongings and shipped a large etching press to Johannesburg. She also took the dream of opening a community printmaking studio modeled on Artist Proof in Cambridge. In 1991, with African artist Nhlanhla Xaba as a partner Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg was founded.
Without a trained clientele of artists, that paradigm from Cambridge did not work. Kim had to train the artists coming to work at the studio. By adapting and adjusting and inventing, and scraping funding together, Artist Proof Studio became a thriving teaching center, home and inspiration to many dozens of young artists.
Tragedy struck in 2000. An electrical fire burned Artist Proof Studio to the ground, killing Nhlanhla Xaba, destroying the presses and the entire archive of artwork.
The presses were repaired, and international support poured in to re-build. A new home was found and the current Artists Proof Studio took shape, stronger and more vigorous than before.
After many years and repeated invitations from Kim to visit SA, three of the original partners of AP in Cambridge went this past April. We each taught a five-day printmakng workshop at Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg.
Kim Berman and, one of the printers in the Pro Print studio.
ARTIST PROOF STUDIO is an Art Education Centre that specializes in printmaking through a variety of partnerships with creative young artists, established professional artists, community groups, patrons and funders. In addition to a two year degree granting program APS runs an active Pro shop where they collaborate with artists and do contract printing for artists.
Located in the Newtown Cultural Presinct of Johannesburg, our daily drive took us through downtown and across the Nelson Mandela bridge.
This mural was created by members of APS, an example of their many community activities and outreach programs. Members are very active in running workshops, Paper Prayers for AIDS Action, in teacher training, and public art.
The entrance gate to the old bus factory where the studio is located.
The Bus Factory is vast and functions as a facility for various art organizations and individual studios. It is owned by the City of Joburg and used for a variety of events and exhibitions.
The entry to APS.
The studio is on two levels, with offices and exhibition space on the lower level.
A staircase lined with etched plates salvaged after the fire leads to the upper level.
These plates and parts of burned artwork were collected after the fire and used as a way to heal, a literal example of a phoenix rising from the ashes.
The salvaged artwork was turned in group collage projects which are now displayed on the stairway walls at APS.
One of three eight foot high collaborative collages constructed of charred prints.
The second level is spacious and high ceilinged, filled with activity and equipment. There is a constant ebb and flow of artists arriving, working, chatting in a dozen languages, playing music, and dancing.
Much of the equipment is second hand, donated and refurbished. But all the basics are there. Most importantly, there is the will to make it work, and huge appreciation for the opportunities offered by the studio.
Jane’s workshop: watercolor panting and watercolor monotype with the first year students. These students have finished high school are just beginning their training at APS. They are all on scholarship and come from the townships surrounding Johannesburg, such as Soweto. Their scholarships include travel expenses, career counseling, writing skills, help with apprenticeships, and teaching opportunities. Sometimes they are helped with family crises and mental health issues as well.
The enthusiasm and thirst for information were palpable. They came everyday and once the word spread more came everyday. They worked with a concentration and joy rarely seen among more priveleged students. Notice the epiphany on the press bed.
They are very aware of the wildlife and natural beauty of their country,
Ilana’s workshop focused on the low-tech printmaking process of silk aquatint.
We chose this process because the materials are readily available and are non-toxic. The process involves adhering fabric to a support by flooding it with black acrylic paint and acrylic medium.
The image is then worked up by painting with white acrylic paint. The dark areas hold the ink in the texture of the fabric. The white areas are smoother and hold varying amount of ink to produce a tonal image.
The process requires many layers of build up and proofing along the way.
Some plates drying.
Proofing of an image on one of the etching presses.
Typical image: a dramatic and somewhat threatening urban scene of streets and cars.
The etching studio with a collection of basic presses. The hood is a ventilation system, very noisy, and because I we were teaching with waterbased inks, unnecessary.
Chipape as I am helping him run a print.
Some of the 18 students in my workshop.
A typical youngster’s choice of subject: himself.
The concerns in this image are stated up front.
Image of township housing. Home to many of the students.
These young artists are talented, determined, and appreciative of the opportunity they are offered in being accepted to the program at APS. They are cannot afford the traditional path to a career as an artist, such as attending University. Therefore the APS experience can vastly impact their lives, giving them access to a livelihood.
Unlike in the US, Kim says that young women are much less likely to apply to the program and APS must recruit them more actively and give them special encouragement. Culturally, the young men are ones who are empowered to participate. Traditionally men are the artists in South African society. One aspect of running the studio is to teach gender equality. Male students must accept sweeping and cleanig duties, something they often resist.
Along with training in art, the studio tries to raise awarreness of social issues of sexual equality and fairness.
The last day we put up work form the workshops and had a walk through.
Kim encourages students to be activists themshelves, to go out into the community and make a difference. Kim sets a powerful example. She has also started a village-based, hand papermaking project, in over twenty rural locations, giving a livelihood to hundreds of people. Some of these proceeds have gone to supporting the orphaned children of AIDS victims.
End of workshop party.
Jane at the center as lead singer.
During the course of the workshop some themes came out very strongly. A typical image: a street underpass: the gritty reality of urban living and survival.
Their images reflect their environments and concerns: housing, self-image, the environment.
Kim sets an example to all of us to go beyond the designated stopping point.
Artist Proof Studio and Mixit Print Studio
ProfARTST PROOF STUDIO is
a quality Art Education
Centre that specializes in
printmaking through a young
community groups, patrons
to provide an environment to develop people with a
common set of values, expressed in the notion of
ubuntu, who have talent and passion to achieve
artistic excellence. APS focuses on intaglio and relief
printmaking processes, including lithography and silk-
screening and other mixed media printing
techniques. We train between 80 and 100 learners
annually; learners come from economically
disadvantaged backgrounds to become professional
artists and well-rounded citizens who make a
difference in their communities and society as a
to provide an environment to develop people with a common set of
values, expressed in the notion of ubuntu, who have talent and passion to
achieve artistic excellence. APS focuses on intaglio and relief printmaking
processes, including lithography and silk-screening and other mixed media
printing techniques. We train between 80 and 100 learners annually;
learners come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to become
professional artists and well-rounded citizens who make a difference in
their communities and society as a whole.