As printmaking has asserted a stronger presence in Salt Lake City’s art scene, more new enterprises have joined the established outlets. And as the momentum has been building, local printmakers have synthesized and brought more mass to their community. Camilla Taylor’s annual print exchanges, Signed & Numbered, SaltGrass and the Book Arts Program are now joined by a new printmaker: Copper Palate Press.
For a long time, SaltGrass Printmakers seemed to be the lone spot, post-graduation, for printmakers to access equipment. Presses are expensive, heavy and not always easy to come by. The need for equipment makes community key—sharing a space ultimately leads to sharing process and ideas. This is the sort of thing Cameron Bentley had in mind when he secured a spot behind the Guthrie Studios on 200 South—another space to create work and engage not only the tight-knit community of print folks, but the downtown community at large.
When an etching/relief press became available, Bentley and his friend Michael Marcinek decided to “see what could happen” in the charming old brick garage that was once The Moroccan. Specifically, this meant a space with a print shop focus that functions essentially like a very laid-back collective.
It also means “showing a [different] side of Salt Lake, and creating a circle around us,” Bentley says. In addition to the members—Bentley, Marcinek, Dave Boogert, Brian Taylor, Damon Smith, Colin Ledbetter and John Andrews, all of whom chip in for rent and help maintain and build things around the shop—there is a slew of other printmakers (including Chad Tolley, Allison Cornu, Mary Toscano and Claire Taylor) who participate in Copper Palate.
Bentley says that many have been key in getting the shop up and running. It also offers members and nonmember print artists another venue to showcase their coveted medium and its process during the monthly art walk—and it certainly strengthens the print presence in the surrounding area. Bentley primarily offers shows to people he’d like to have involved with the collective—and in so doing, he also hopes to get the community more excited about printmaking and maintain a constant conversation.
“It’s hard to get people educated about printmaking, to understand what it is,” he says. It goes beyond a duplicative and commercial purpose, and the process of printmaking is something he hopes to expose and make accessible in a major way during the artwalk events.
“Printmaking is everywhere in the world—bottles, newspapers, labels,” he says, and although it may often be taken for granted or misunderstood in such a context, there is a lot more than meets the eye. Creating a live experience during openings—which always includes live music and, often, live screen-printing—is a crucial part of the goal for Bentley and has so far been successful.
Placed in just the right spot in close proximity to east Broadway, it seems Copper Palate has hit the ground running. The inaugural show in June, mostly comprised of members, was a floor-to-ceiling expo of not just prints but also photos, drawings and paintings that, as its entrance exhibition, did feel like something different and largely unseen. The shop is currently set up for screen and relief printing as well as developing black and white photography; etching will be available in the next couple of months. The combination of equipment, process, community and exhibition space all under one non-institutional roof is an exciting development for downtown Salt Lake City.
In the coming months, art patrons can look forward to several print-and-take events with a dose of playful humor in conjunction with monthly exhibitions— a January underwear-print party (BYOU) with anticipated sponsorship from American Apparel, and a tall-boy-beerkoozie-print party in March, to name a couple. In February, Copper Palate will host the popular annual mini-print show of more than 30 artists organized by Justin Diggle and likely will offer some variety of Valentine’s Day wares. It feels young and fun but not exclusive or overly hip, and the collaborative and collective aspects assure a new experience each stroll.
Finished art—polished, framed and hung—sometimes doesn’t convey the blood, sweat and tears that go into it. It doesn’t magically materialize in the space in which it is viewed. Sometimes it can be easy for viewers to overlook the process. This is at the core of what Copper Palate can potentially offer the community via its events—a look at, and an opportunity to engage in, the process. “It’s about being there.” Bentley says, “It’s transient art. It’s to celebrate print-making.” And with an ever-growing interest in print, Copper Palate seems like a welcome addition.
Copper Palate Press
160 E. 200 South, Unit B