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The 2013 Printers' Ball ramps up its printmaking focus

Spudnik Press sponsors this year's print showcase, which includes printmaking demos, readings and more.


Since it began in 2005, the Printers' Ball, Chicago's premiere annual literary showcase, has become a more multidisciplinary event, adding music performances, screenprinting demos, short films, shadow puppet shows and hot dogs. The event has attracted a largely literary audience, however, with a slew of local publishers and publications represented. Now, following a management changeover from the Poetry Foundation to Spudnik Press, the printstravaganza—happening Saturday, July 27—breaks out of its classic bindings and into a more creative form. 

Spudnik Press Cooperative has long been a staple of the Chicago printmaking community, providing affordable space for anyone interested in promoting and engaging with the art of printed matter. This year, the printshop teams up with art and design collective the Post Family, art gallery Johalla Projects and design collective Simple. Honest. Work. to throw one of the most hands-on parties of the year, featuring risograph and printmaking demos, as well as on-the-spot tote bag screenprinting. The sun will be shining (it’s a daytime event for the first time in its nine-year history), the print nerds will be roaming, and this really abstract ice cream will be trying its best not to melt all over the West Town sidewalks. No doubt it will be a fun-filled day. But it won’t exactly be by the book.

Chad Kouri, cultural engineer at the Post Family and member of the Printers' Ball planning committee, said there has been an orchestrated effort to highlight the printmaking arts this year, while still embracing the written word. The goal is to bring together different extensions of print that support and play off one another.

Corrina Lesser, project manager of the Printers' Ball and assistant director of programming for the Chicago Humanities Festival, provided further explanation: “We were trying to think about visual artists who have a connection to the literary world, or literary writers and poets who have a connection to the visual world,” she said. “Interdisciplinarity is a huge thing. Right now it’s a buzzword, but it’s been a part of the way that artists and writers have interacted for years.”

Such was the case at last year’s Printer’s Ball at the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, which included bookbinding, letterpress and rubber stamping alongside literary trivia and library card sign-up. Last year’s conference also paid tribute to the city’s wisest wordsters with performances from the Read/Write Library and the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Reading Series

If anything showcases the more equal focus between literature and art this year, it's a keynote speech from renowned Chicago artist and poet Tony Fitzpatrick, who founded Big Cat Press in 1992. Also participating are literary heavyweights from Woodland Pattern and Danny’s Reading Series.

Fred Sasaki, editor at Poetry and founder of the Printer’s Ball, said the Foundation, though no longer in charge, is still funding and supporting the event. He said in an e-mail that the ball will be “equal parts focus and fancy” and that guests “should expect to experience the beauty and grit of literary enterprise like never before.” 

This year’s event will take place in six different venues, all within the Hubbard St. Lofts. Outside, food trucks will serve empanadas as passersby watch free demonstrations or participate in workshops on bookbinding, bookmaking and surrealist poetry. Named "Trip and Return," a play on the letterpress term that also references the resurgence of print culture, Printers' Ball promises to be a multisensory, multifaceted experience, highlighting the intersections between art and lit. 

Printers' Ball 2013: "Trip and Return" happens Saturday, July 27, at Hubbard Street Lofts.

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