Artist Insights: Interview with Angee Lennard of Spudnik Press



From the May-August 2013 print edition of Chicago Gallery News

Chicago artist Angee Lennard wears many hats.  When she’s not creating her own work, you might find her teaching art classes or getting involved in various collaborative projects and residencies – both locally and abroad. Additionally, Lennard founded Spudnik Press Cooperative in 2007 and continues to oversee a wide range of community programs that are offered at the vibrant West Side space. 


What’s your Chicago story – why and when did you move here?
I grew up in Michigan on a potato farm and moved to Chicago to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2001. Even though I was raised close to Toledo and Detroit, living in a huge city required a lot of adjustment, but I’ve gotten quite used to the quantity and quality of cultural events here and don’t see myself moving anytime soon.


You graduated from SAIC in 2005 with a BFA with emphasis in print media. Are you still connected to SAIC now?
Very much so. I’ve worked with interns from my alma mater, and I’m in regular contact with the staff and faculty in the Print Media Department, since they send students to Spudnik Press and donate work to our annual silent auction.  I’ve been a guest artist in classes and at a few career-focused events. It’s rewarding transitioning to a peer of my former instructors.


How did you start teaching?
Marwen and Spudnik Press are the two organizations I consistently teach with. My desire to teach developed out of a frustration that contemporary art is often inaccessible to much of the general public. Art can often be very self-referential and hard to engage with without some education (formal or otherwise) in visual communication/thinking. I felt a big disconnect between my peers at SAIC and my neighbors in Little Village. My teaching works toward shortening this divide. 


Spudnik Press is a community print shop that offers open studio time, classes, residencies and exhibitions; it has evolved to be an impressive space with many offerings. How is Spudnik today different than how you first imagined it to be in 2007?
I opened Spudnik Press with the intent to do exactly what we still do: offer affordable and approachable access to printmaking. However, the scale of what the shop is today was unimaginable to me in 2007. When I started out I knew the communal aspect of a print shop was the most important factor. Through running the studio for 6 years, I have a much more holistic understanding of what it means to run a community space. We bridge a variety of communities, i.e., youth programming overlapping with residency programs; writing classes alongside printmaking classes. 


Spudnik Press is associated with Chicago Area Artists Residency Programs (CAARP), and you’ve also been an artist in residence at AS220 in Providence, RI as well as Ragdale in Lake Forest, IL. Please share the impact of residency programs to you and other artists. 
CAARP began very organically about two years ago. Based on shared member experiences we set some goals, such as cross-promotion, collective advertising, and hosting collaborative exhibitions. While many residencies take artists away from the distractions of everyday life, urban residencies ask artists to interact with the community and often host local artists. CAARP has allowed me to be better connected to similar residency programs - residencies that are parallel to what we offer, and are therefore more relevant. 

The two residencies that I have completed have instigated substantial shifts in my work and allowed me the focus to develop new lingering ideas. I’ve also done “self-imposed” residencies, which I find useful. Last year, I spent a week in a cabin on the Mississippi River and created my first animation. 


What’s your favorite method of printmaking for your own work?  
My favorite process is intaglio (etching.) It offers just the right amount of control and unpredictability, and makes me feel a little like an alchemist. My technical skills are strongest for screenprinting, simply because I have had more opportunities to teach and print professional jobs and consignments.


How do you balance your own studio practice and how is your work impacted? 
It is very difficult to maintain a studio practice while running Spudnik Press and teaching, but my students definitely inspire me. Young artists often approach art with such fresh perspectives and eagerness that I often leave class ready to take more risks myself. My newest body of work investigates the relationship between emotional thinking and logical/rational thinking that I believe stems from the tension between the work I do as an art administrator and as an artist. Honestly, the only way I make new work is through residencies and through participating in projects with strict deadlines. Otherwise, my art would always get pushed to the back burner. 


Are you in the middle of any big projects at the moment?
This summer I will head to South Africa as a volunteer teaching artist with Dramatic Need, and I suspect I’ll be working on my own projects while I’m there. I’ll spend three weeks in a town called Viljoenskroon teaching animation with my partner, Colin Palombi. I’m also working on a collaborative project called Ten by Ten, a unique opportunity for visual artists and music composers to collaborate in a meaningful, shared creation. I’m working with composer Randall West to create a print and original score investigating synesthesia to be released this fall.


How would you describe Chicago’s art scene?
I don’t feel qualified to summarize the whole scene, but where I interact it seems to be tangible, good-humored and relevant. Chicagoans seem to make work that has craftsmanship, and is physical or tactile, often ironic or lighthearted, sometimes even silly. What I love about this city is that so many people make work that has importance beyond the gallery setting - work that speaks to social and political issues, or work that is digestible even by those without a degree in art.


Angee Lennard