In 1984, Jolie Stahl and I spent Labor Day weekend with Christy Rupp in Lexington, NY at Art Awareness, a non-profit multi-arts center. We initiated an artists’ forum and printmaking studio and began to make prints in the summer of 1985. Art Awareness, Createx Colors, Standard Screen Supply Corporation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts supported our production.
We activated a print studio, long dormant and up a set of stairs above an old farmhouse. It felt like the place where George Burns and his writing team invented their TV comedies. Our creative fun was fluid and intensely productive. The electrical cables were heavy with grapes. Sally Avery generously provided a waterproof roof for the second summer. The town dammed the river to make an excellent swimming area adjacent to the studio. A drive-in movie theater and a restaurant provided local color when we needed to get out.
Our teamwork included people with high technical intelligence and broad production experience. Forty-eight small editions by 31 artists were published during the first seven summers. Vince Kennedy of Createx Colors (CT) worked with us as he developed a new line of non-toxic pure pigments. We piloted the use of his inks with beautiful results. Judd Weisberg passed to us what he had learned from his uncles Leslie and Jim Tillett. Arthur I. Gononsky of Standard Screen Supply was very generous.
For 25 years, Art Awareness provided visual, musical, and theatrical artists a supportive place to develop, refine, and present creative work. The directors were Pam and Judd Weisberg. They cultivated freedom and exchange among artists in an expansive and beautiful landscape with modest but reliable financial support. Split Britches, the WOW Café, Holly Hughes, Meredith Monk, Bill T. Jones, Kenny Burrell, Lionel Hampton, Ping Chong, Green Plays, Mary and Daniel Buchen, Eiko and Koma and many, many others were regular participants at Art Awareness.
During this cultural era, Art Awareness received multi-year national public funding, one of only two non-profit organizations that was also located geographically outside of a major American city.
Jody Culkin, Ann Messner, and Christy Rupp, also accociated with COLAB, devoted the summer of 1985 to the development of their welding skills.
A screen print may also be called a serigraph or a silk
In the winter of 1976-77, I was drawn into a feverish sequence of gatherings in artists’ lofts in downtown New York City. The focus was the structure of an organization that would support the creation and sharing of art, defining purpose and forms for group activity. The group included a mix of about 26 artists; painters, writers, photographers, filmmakers and many who wanted to make everything.
It was a volatile and exciting mix. People had identified each other in schools, jobs, bars, the Whitney Program, Australia, and elsewhere. The earliest name of the group was the Green Corporation. The second name was Collaborative Projects, Inc. also known as COLAB, reflecting a shift in intention. Within two years, consensus replaced “executive decision.” COLAB was chaotic and fundamentally democratic. I found it highly compelling.
Projects included the “All Color News,” a cable TV show. There were exhibitions and stores in storefronts and lofts, international slow scan video, publications, and a pre-fax, pre-internet, communication transmission activity utilizing QWIP machines, procured from the Exxon Corporation by Liza Bear. Through a juicy and conflicted multi-year period of identity and structural definition, there was experimentation in and rich discussion of accessible content, political forces, technology, equity, corporate versus union models, and material resources.
During 1978-80, Coleen Fitzgibbons, Tom Otterness, Ulli Rimkus and I were the COLAB officers. We raised money for the group from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and private sources. In June 1980, COLAB produced the wild and historic Times Square Show that included 250 artists. My archive of this period includes thorough and unique documentation including, photographs, Otterness’s hand drawn floor map, and meeting notes.
Making multiples was an important aspect of COLAB and they were sold in several versions of the A. More Store, named for Allan Moore. “Collaborative Projects” is now a generic term, midstream mainstream instead of the name of a provocative artists’ collective. Some of the artists have been famous and several have made valuable contributions as leaders and cultural activists.
The founding of Avocet with Jolie Stahl who had also been active in COLAB was my next foray into production and creative community building. We took great pleasure in group work, imagery linked to joy, the exploration of a new medium, and contributing to the development new non-toxic printmaking materials.
I would like to thank my collaborators and supporters in this work:
Jolie Stahl and all of the artists of the Avocet Portfolio and in the extended COLAB and Art Awareness communities.
Steve Sutta, Sam Ewen, Vince Kennedy, Arthur I. Gononsky, and Judd Weisberg for their contributions in the forms of knowledge, material, and technical expertise.
Pam Weisberg, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council for the Arts for support over many years.
Fred Krughoff, COLAB artist and web consultant, for his collaboration on the design and development of avocetportfolio.com.
Artists Brian Rumbolo and Ben Rinehart in the preparation phase of this effort.