Printmaking isn’t dead, and neither is Alfstad& productions.
At first glance, the space is a spitting image of its predecessor. Tall, art-covered walls painted white with the occasional dash of red catch a visitor’s eye immediately. Those who venture to the right are met by a sleek staircase leading to a stylish loft serving as a mostly administrative space. But anyone who heads to the back of the space will understand why it’s a cousin of the old gallery two doors down — not a twin.
In January, Alfstad& Contemporary closed its doors for good, but production company Alfstad& lives on, and its latest project is printmaking and art studio Alfstad& Editions. The space opened two doors down from Alfstad& Contemporary on Jan. 18 in the Rosemary District, and ever since, it has remained dedicated to creating limited-edition prints and original works of art.
“We closed the gallery, but what you see are remnants of that,” Studio Manager Chris Schumaker says as he gestures to prints on display by artists who exhibited at Alfstad& Contemporary. “Printmaking is what we’re really passionate about.”
Schumaker says it’s best to think of the new venture as a spinoff of Alfstad& Contemporary. A spinoff that this interviewer could tell is completely, 100% his baby.
The 2013 Ringling College of Art and Design graduate is a print fanatic. Just a few questions in, the otherwise laid-back artist’s enthusiasm for the medium is evident in the sudden acceleration of the sentences spilling out.
Schumaker’s love affair with printmaking began at Ringling College, but when he left school, he couldn’t find anywhere else in Sarasota with the resources he had as an art student. That’s the idea behind Alfstad& Editions, where people can come not only to view and purchase art but also create it themselves on a wide variety of print mediums.
The fun part? All skill levels are welcome.
“No creative bone required,” Schumaker says. “It’s for anyone looking for a creative outlet — like the retired folks who want something to do with friends on a Tuesday night. Perfect.”
He’s doing this by offering a variety of services: open studio sessions, private instruction, contract printing, studio rental, workshops and pop-up shows as forms of community engagement. The goal is to collaborate with other artists from various disciplines to show Sarasotans what printmaking is all about.
HOW IT WORKS
Classes teach the printing process through basic, group or individual sessions, and Schumaker is the instructor for all of them. Over the summer, he’s offering three workshop courses ranging from $200-$250: introduction to printmaking (monotypes), silk-screen basics and pysanky egg painting (printmaking of a different sort).
Most classes are introductory, Schumaker says, whereas private instruction is customizable. Students can bring their own equipment if they have it, or they can purchase from Alfstad& Editions.
But like Alfstad& Contemporary, people can still come in off the street and simply enjoy looking at (and potentially purchasing) 70-some works of art whenever the space is open. Schumaker typically has prints — and even some sculptures — on display by both local and national artists, such as Jorge Blanco, Hans von de Bovenkamp, Betsy Cameron, Michael Wyshock and Schumaker himself.
Both artists and general members of the community can order prints of preexisting work, and there’s a wide range of printmaking options, including digital, photo-polymer, woodcut, relief, intaglio and screen-printing. (Whereas at Alfstad& Contemporary, Schumaker could only do screen and digital printing)
FILLING A VOID
Schumaker says Alfstad& Editions is the only place in Sarasota where people can view and/or purchase prints, learn how to make their own and rent out studio time under the same roof — and for a decent price.
“There’s nowhere affordable to print here,” he says, adding that this affects artists, businesses and anyone else who needs any sort of signage. “Our paper costs $10 a sheet, so it can’t be a $30 class, but we do our best.”
Schumaker points out that as a Ringling graduate, he knows first-hand how few Ringling students stay in Sarasota after college to start their career. He’s hoping that having a community space like Alfstad& Editions can inspire young artists to stick around for a little longer — and he wants to entice them with dynamic events like pop-up exhibits and creative activities like tie-dying nights.
“If I was a college student, I’d want to hang out here,” he says with a grin. “We want to be the hype, the place to go.”
Diane Chanako-Turner is a Sarasota-based painter and illustrator who has embraced Alfstad& Editions’ printmaking options.
“I don’t think that many people know about it, and it’s just a little gold mine over there,” she says. “He’s got every tool you need there, and he’s very one-to-one with you. He gives great advice, and he’s a great teacher.”
Chanako-Turner was first introduced to Alfstad& Editions during a First Fridays event in the Rosemary District in February, and she quickly called to book studio time after getting excited with all the types of prints the studio offers.
In March, she sat with Schumaker to go over her portfolio and explain the type of art she was interested in moving into — she’s now producing a series of etchings and silk screens made in the studio — and he taught her every thing she needed to know, from safety to technique.
Now, Chanako-Turner keeps in touch with him weekly, booking studio time when her budget allows her to keep producing her limited-editions prints.
“I wanted to do something brand new, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I do printmaking?’” she says. “It’s been a thrill and a joy. … There’s just something about a great studio and on top of that a teacher who’s so competent. I give it five stars.”