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Off the Printed Path: A Philagrafika 2010 Festival Stamp of Approval

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Jenny Schmid, Still from Fountain of Youth, 2009 - image by: Image courtesy of the artist, MinneapolisFrom January 29 through April 11, Philadelphia is celebrating Philagrafika 2010, our pioneer citywide celebration of printed arts. This sprawling hometown festival features local, national, and international print artists and print collectives, building upon Philadelphia’s own amazing artistic resources and temporarily transforming the City of Brotherly Love into the City of Printerly Love. 

Created by the former Philadelphia Print Collaborative, now rebranded as “Philagrafika,” the founding print-friendly gang has a mission to promote and sustain printmaking as a vital and valued art form using diverse festivals, annual invitational portfolios, and other innovative projects.  Philagrafika seeks to empower artists in this genre to create and execute large-scale, cooperative initiatives with broad public exposure.  

Who are the masterminds of this graphic affair? Latin American curator José Roca, Artistic Director (Chief Curator of Philagrafika 2010), teamed with curators John Caperton (The Print Center), Sheryl Conkelton (independent), Shelley Langdale (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Lorie Mertes (Moore College of Art & Design), and Julien Robson (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), perhaps some of the most knowledgeable Philly folks in the topic, scoured the choices and invited an incredibly wide array of artists display their work. 

From globally recognized Kiki Smith, Virgil Marti, and Oscar Muñoz, to residents Cindy Ettinger, Katie Baldwin, and Hedi Kyle, the raw creativity exhibited in the 100+ local venues participating in Philagrafika is mind-blowing. 

Bitterkomix, Artwork for cover of Bitterkomix book, 2008; Black ink and acrylic on paper - image by: Image courtesy of the artists, JohannesburgPhilagrafika reminds us that prints can be as natural as leaving footsteps in fresh snow, or as complex as an animated video loop.  Arguably, the most interesting aspect is the pure innovation and reinvention of printed arts, including digital media, installation, and audio components, amid works as familiar and simply pleasing as the potato stamp you made in fourth grade or your brother’s basement t-shirt business.  Many of these pieces engage your eyes, ears, and other bodily parts to create synesthetic and immersive art experiences.  

Join the print “party” and support Philadelphia as an axis for artistic endeavors.  Here are a handful of Philagrafika highlights, categorized by our five senses:

See It to Believe It:

  • Bug out with Regina Silveira’s Mundus Admirabilis and Other Plagues at Moore College of Art, enormous printed “infestations” on the walls of the gallery.
  • Artfront Partnership’s ongoing installations in store windows on Walnut between 16th and 18th Streets allow all shoppers to get an eyeful without stepping into a gallery.
  • A river runs through it… The Fabric Workshop and Museum presents Life Scroll, a collaboration with world-renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, and featuring a man-made rippling stream  

All Ears:

Smells Like Print Spirit:

  • Ahoy, matey!  Climb onto 1895 vessel, Olympia, at the Independence Seaport Museum on the Deleware River and see Cannonball Press recreating the ship’s The Blinding Billow newspaper.
  • Book Bombs, a joint project by Mary Tasillo and Michelle White, occurs at varying places around the city and allows you to embrace each neighborhood for its own unique charm
  • Tabaimo’s video installations at the Philadelphia Museum of Art connect us with public restrooms, trains, and bathhouses, spaces that blur our privacy

Tasty Treats:

  • Sue Cou, creator of illustrations for The New Yorker, serves up same raw political statements about poverty and animal rights at The Print Center.
  • Chickens take center stage in It Was Good While It Lasted at Space 1026… after consuming art, relax in the collective’s comfy yurt installation at The Print Center.
  • Supporting organics and “greening,” Muse Gallery is hosting Green Mono, an exhibition of prints made with non-toxic dyes. 

A Touchy Subject:

  • Enrique Chagoya’s print, The Headache, was inspired by George Cruikshank’s The Headache in the Rosenbach Museum & Library’s collection—join fun hands-on workshops there too!
  • Create a lasting impression by using Eric Avery’s etched toilet seat at The Print Center, which imprints your derriere while you do your business.
  • Lisa  Ann Auerbach’s Tract House at a storefront nearby the American Philosophical Society Museum features printed arts you can take home with you!

Photo 1: Jenny Schmid, Still from Fountain of Youth, 2009 - image by: Image courtesy of the artist, Minneapolis 

Photo 2: Bitterkomix, Artwork for cover of Bitterkomix book, 2008; Black ink and acrylic on paper - image by: Image courtesy of the artists, Johannesburg

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Ellen Owens is a guest writer for Philly2philly.com. She is a Philadelphia-based educator, writer, and artist. Ellen's current role as the Executive Director of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens allows her to explore and connect public and collaborative art, diversity, and Philadelphia history through educational programs, exhibitions, and performances.  She is a founding member of locally-based HomeSkooled Gallery, as well as a committee member for Plays & Players theater and a board member of the Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley

Owens graduated with honors from Penn State University, earning a BA in Art Education with a concentration on Museums and Cultural Institutions and a BFA in Painting and Drawing.  She received her MA in Museum Education from the University of the Arts. Owens’ experience in museum programming and education includes the Palmer Museum of Art, the Matson Museum of Anthropology, the Franklin Institute, and the American Philosophical Society Museum.  

Owens’ past arts experience includes teaching and coordinating programs at the Creative Oasis (a public art studio/gallery), along with Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Arts and Crafts and the Palmer Museum of Art.  Owens has assisted installation artists Winifred Lutz and Stacy Levy on large-scale projects and has exhibited artworks in State College, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.