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    Praxis, Brick and Ink House: the DIY (Art) World Revolution

    by

    Interior of Brick

    Interior view of Brick showing the studio in full swing. Photo credit: Todd Kravos

    The experiment that is Waterloo is coming along nicely.

    This past summer saw the addition of three new hubs of creative enterprise with the additions of Brick Ceramic + Design Studio, Praxis Fiber Workshop and Zygote Press’s Ink House Annex.

    These endeavors are multifaceted in what they represent, providing for instance a model for a different kind of approach to “development.” Rather than the traditional American model of bulldozing and “gentrifying,” Northeast Shores Community Development Corporation has taken a very different path, underwriting those who repurpose existing architectures and seek to become members of existing communities. This kind of model doesn’t just pay lip service to the benefits of a creative economy, it actually goes there, putting real skin in the game by providing the dollars to make it happen. The goal is to invigorate an area ripe with untapped resources, to seed revivals of the sort seen in places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Wilkinsburg, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh.

    Valerie Grossman stands in the middle of Brick’s workspace

    Founder Valerie Grossman stands in the middle of Brick’s workspace. Photo Credit: Lane Cooper

    Jessica Pinsky at Praxis Fiber Workshop

    Jessica Pinsky stands in Praxis. In the background is a glimpse of the space’s gallery with work by Rebecca Cross. Photo credit: Lane Cooper

    Colorful Thread at Praxis Fiber Workshop

    A shot of the well-stocked and colorful thread shelves at Praxis. Photo credit: Lane Cooper

    Valerie Grossman's ceramic cups

    Test pieces of Valerie Grossman’s cup designs – Brick. Photo credit: Lane Cooper

    On the ground, of course, such enterprises require energy, the will to do and most importantly, the personal courage to see it through. The women manning the helms of Praxis and Brick, Jessica Pinsky and Valerie Grossman, are nothing if not courageous. It takes a lot to venture into an uncertain future risking both personal financial security and potentially years of one’s life for something that might not pan out. It is the very definition of faith to “go there” and both women readily acknowledge that some part of this faith comes from the success of Zygote and the leadership model provided by such trail blazers as Bellamy Printz and Liz Maugans. With its shared studio and community-centric programs, Zygote, pointed the way for two young artists daunted by the challenges of making a career in a field that was still reeling from the financial crisis.

    Ink House in Waterloo

    Ink House in progress, Photo Credit: Bob Perkoski, Fresh Water Cleveland

    Liz Maugans in front of the Charles Brand Pres

    Liz Maugans in front of the Charles Brand Press, Photo Credit: Bob Perkoski, Fresh Water Cleveland

    Ink House in Waterloo

    Clean Paper station in production space, Photo Credit: Bob Perkoski, Fresh Water Cleveland

    Founded in 1996, Zygote pioneered a diverse set of approaches to funding. In addition to the traditional routes of donors, grants, and art sales, Zygote’s leadership understands that its community is its true wealth. Modest fees for studio access and more importantly, supporting artists as much as the organization asks artists to support it, made Zygote one of the most dynamic and successful non-profits operating. Artists working with Zygote are fiercely loyal to the organization and are willing to contribute not just in terms of money and art donations, but also in terms of sweat equity, literally getting their hands dirty to help make projects like Ink House a reality. It is an incredibly stable model as well, and while other organizations have struggled in the wake of the financial crisis, Zygote had the reserves not just to survive, but to grow while simultaneously cultivating a solid base of artists deeply committed to the Zygote project of sustaining printmaking as a “vital contemporary” practice.

    Valerie Grossman with Eleni Dimaio

    Valerie Grossman with Eleni Dimaio. Designer and artist Dimaio leads Brick’s “Date Nights” on Thursdays. Photo credit: Lane Cooper

    Jessica Pinsky with Fiber Performance artist Natalie Grieshammer

    Jessica Pinsky with Fiber and Performance artist Natalie Grieshammer. Grieshammer is also an instructor at Praxis. Photo credit: Lane Cooper

    Ongoing community weaving

    Ongoing community weaving – Praxis. Photo credit: Lane Cooper

    Wares coming out of the kiln at Brick.

    Wares coming out of the kiln at Brick. Photo provided by Brick.

    Following Zygote’s lead—Praxis, Brick, and Zygote’s spin off, Ink House —represent a paradigm shift on numerous levels but significantly they provide an accessible “art world” that makes room for all kinds of creativity. They achieve the ends somewhat ham-handedly approached by the requirement found in so many grant applications to “demonstrate public value” by providing a haven for the unmediated art experience, privileging the tactile, material – physical aspects of artistic practice. The aesthetics of the hand come to the fore offering an antidote for the ubiquitous screen. Their greatest benefit is that they offer, not just for a few art elites, but to a diverse spectrum of willing participants, the means of being present, being here now. Our anxious age desperately needs this – the contemporary individual desperately needs this – for it is impossible to not be present in the act of making and equally this act of making, of touching, of seeing, holds at bay the nagging anxieties of contemporary lives lived largely through (and mediated by) the screen.

    Make the trip to Waterloo.


    Lane Cooper, an Associate Professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art and practicing artist, holds an MFA in Painting.  View more articles by Lane Cooper.


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