This year marks the 11th annual Printers Ball, a day of performances, live printmaking demos, and exhibitions surrounding poetry and literary culture. Founded in 2004 by Poetry magazine’s Art Director Fred Sasaki, Printers Ball strives to bring together printers, writers, publishers, artists, readers, collectors, students, teachers, makers, and consumers. This year, the Ball will be hosted by Spudnik Press Cooperative at the Hubbard Street Lofts in Chicago, with a central theme of “push and pull.”
Angee Lennard, founder and director of Spudnik Press Cooperative, discussed the event in depth with Augury’s assistant editor, Nicolas Amara.
Nick: What prompted this year’s theme of “Push & Pull”?
Angee: Despite how short and sweet the theme is, there was a ton of thought behind it. This year, we had two big goals in mind. First, we plan for this Printers Ball to be more tactile than ever. The Printers Ball Marketplace features publications and prints that are best enjoyed and appreciated in their physical form. The Spudnik Press Printshop will be hosting a variety of workshops allowing guests to run our presses and make their own prints. The Steamroller Spectacular will be highlight the tactile-ness of print. The physicality of pushing and pulling indicates our hands-on approach to this festival.
Second, we want to deepen the level of conversation among participants and guests. We’ll have more ways for guests to contribute their own voice. “Push & Pull” signifies to us complete engagement from everyone involved, including attendees, and hints at the healthy tension that can come from true dialogue.
Nick: Spudnik’s mission states that the cooperative was “founded on the premise that art should be a democratic and empowering medium.” The press release for this year’s Ball emphasizes that festival programs aim to blur the line between author and audience, creating an interactive, collective environment. Is this break down of hierarchy integral to the Ball’s mission?
Angee: This is a very acute observation, and in short, I do believe that Printers Ball has no need for traditional hierarchy. The event has always been first and foremost a celebration. It is an event for everyone: professional poets, readers, hobbyist writers, printers, students, self-publishers, and the simply curious.
When we began planning the 2015 Printers Ball, we gave a lot of thought to the evolution of Printers Ball. Since Printers Ball began, and perhaps in part because of Printers Ball, Chicago has seen tremendous growth in the number and quality of reading series and small press publishers. For example, Curbside Splendor host fantastic pop-up book shops year round and throughout the city. Sector 2337 grew out of Green Lantern Press, and has a permanent brick and mortor location. We felt that the level of artistic output in Chicago is fantastic and that we could fill a different role than simply presenting work. We craved dialogue, and we hoped that this could be a place for the creative community to not perform, but to talk with each other about their art form, their city, and their community, and leave invigorated. Luckily, this all ties in very nicely with our democratic mission and how we approach all programming at Spudnik Press Cooperative!
Nick: What role do you see Spudnik and the Printers Ball playing in the larger surrounding community? Though it is clear both are going strong, given this is the Ball’s 11th year, how has reception been?
Angee: This Printers Ball will be the third that Spudnik Press has organized and hosted, and each year keeps getting better. Spudnik Press offers rich programming year round that in ways address the same goals as Printers Ball (community, collaboration, and artistic production). However, Printers Ball allows us to present programming on a scale that is usually beyond our means. Printers Ball allows us to think much bigger and connect with an impressively broad audience. Under Spudnik’s pervue, we have been able to expand the scope of Printers Ball by getting our entire building involved and bridging poetry with photography, design, installation, and traditional printmaking. Printers Ball has always been a free-spirited event with reinvention every few years, and I expect it will continue to evolve as our larger surrounding community does the same.
Nick: Aside from showing up the day of, how can artists, writers, and other community members get involved with the Ball?
Angee: One way for artists to be involved is through contributing a carved woodblock to our Steamroller Spectacular. We’ve collected carving from about 300 artists, ranging from middle school students to professional artists. On Saturday, June 27th, all blocks, collaged in various 8-foot long combinations, will be printed in our parking lot using a construction steamroller. We are also seeking lightly used and affectionately discarded books for our Printers Ball Book Drive, benefiting Open Books. Publishers can also contribute books to our “Book Butcher,” where guests can order different cuts of magazines and books from revered publishers, big and small, across the nation.
Once people do show up, there are endless ways to get involved. G.E.E.E. is asking writers to stop by Plantlets for Poems, and select a few donated poems to read aloud. Story Club Chicago will give audience members the chance to perform live at Printers Ball. The more serious, round table conversations include “Gender, Sex, and Honesty,” “Curation as a Tool to Intersect Communities,” and “The Intersection between Art, Politics, and Community Building.” In the Printshop, we’ll have presses running all day with an ongoing collaborative letterpress poem project, screenprinted tattoos, mononprinting, and more.
For more information, visit the event website.
Augury Books’ spring/summer 2015 reading period is now open for submissions in poetry and prose. For guidelines and general information, please visit our submissions page.