What is PRESS? PRESS: LetterPRESS as a Public Art Project was a hybrid studio, gallery and teaching lab with a fully operational Vandercook Universal III Proof Press as the centerpiece that operated on Main Street, North Adams, MA for five years. NOW, PRESS is on the MOVE!
What is a Vandercook Proof PRESS? And how did we get ours? Moveable type revolutionized the world. Chicago newspaperman Robert Vandercook capitalized on that when he founded Vandercook proof presses in 1909. Originally, proof presses tested moveable type and plates that made up the pages of the newspaper. In the 21st century, artists use letterpress machines to create contemporary art, with moveable lead and wood type, and relief surfaces like linoleum, wood, and polymer plates.Our Vandercook, circa 1969, is a Universal III, the Cadallic of Vandercooks, fully automatic with adjustable bed height and massive printing space.
Berkshire poet Barry Sternlieb and artist Julio Granda passed on the Uni III to PRESS founder Melanie Mowinski in the spring of 2010 when they no longer could house it. Mowinski stored it for a little over a year prior to opening PRESS, somewhat on a dare, in June 2011.
Why is PRESS relevant now? In a time when many people feel detached from print that isn’t on a computer screen, PRESS embraces the physicality of the printing process, celebrating the tactile qualities of beautiful handset lead and wood type prints. PRESS utilizes traditional processes to create contemporary art, often using techniques that bring state-of-the-art processes together with century old practices. Visitors love to watch the single sheet of paper strapped to the cylinder moving across the relief surface as it gets printed and punched. At PRESS, you can see how newspapers, books and pictures were created in the days when the first step in getting print into the public’s hands was to use a letterpress proof press.
Who benefits from PRESS? People who link printing to foreign-made ink jets and lasers, learn about the roots of printing and the avenues for personal pleasure and experience that it offers. Others may remember their experience of traditional print media and its processes. Work made at PRESS slows down the process, encouraging the creator to mindfully create with the wood and lead, image and text.
PRESS is a project of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA).