Hot off the press
The University of Nevada, Reno offers a printmaking program that teaches techniques and concepts. Yet abruptly after graduation, students no longer have access to the on-campus lab and its equipment. Former student Nathaniel Benjamin and a group of friends from the art department wanted to change that by making printmaking as accessible as possible to the entire Reno community. Laika Press, a non-profit print shop, opened its doors Dec. 15.
About six months ago, Benjamin sat down with his friends to plan out how they would start this project. He said that, as more friends went into the printmaking program, the program’s energy level rose. With the help of the Holland Project’s Britt Curtis, Laika Press was able to acquire a space on Wells Avenue next to Magpie Coffee Roasters. The press shares the space with radio station KWNK so that both projects can split the financial burden, Curtis said.
“This crew is comprised of incredible artists,” said Curtis. “Some recent grads and some current students that need access themselves to create for their own practices but also get very clearly the need in the community for others to have access.”
Benjamin said there were already people in Reno doing their own printmaking, simply because they had their own private presses and the funds to purchase them. Print presses can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, a purchase that is often off the table for individual artists. Fortunately enough, Laika Press was able to purchase a press for community use at a UNR surplus sale for a reasonable cost.
“Collaboration is so much better than competition, said Benjamin. “It helps us all grow together and helps us all figure out new techniques, and it kind of gets us all in the same space, which makes a huge difference too.”
Laika Press seeks to educate people about the basics of printmaking in addition to hosting specialty workshops once a month. According to Benjamin, each instructor’s personal interests will be reflected in the workshops as they try to get people to explore different avenues within printmaking because there is so much that can be done with it. He said it’s not super complex, but the little details learned can make a huge difference. He wants people with no experience to come in, make quality prints and be satisfied with the results of their artwork.
With printmaking, it’s possible to make multiples of the same design.
“When you make a painting, you have one of that painting,” said Benjamin. “You can make digital reproductions of it, but they’re not originals. But, when you make prints, the originals are every print you make.”
According to Benjamin, the goal is to create an awareness and an atmosphere around printmaking where local printmakers can meet and collaborate. Benjamin also mentioned that in the long term he’d want Laika Press to expand the influence of arts in Reno whether that means bringing artists into the city or just promoting Reno’s local artists.
Benjamin said Laika Press wants to be on the frontier of printmaking. That’s where the name came from anyway—the Soviet space dog who was one of the first living creatures to be sent into outer space.