Chicago's Longest Running, Independent Print Shop Celebrates 30 Years

CPC Director Deb Lader operates a press with visitors to the shop



The longest running, independent print shop in Chicago, hits the big 3-0 with an eventful year planned to celebrate its exciting history.

A Modest Beginning

The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative (CPC) is a gallery and workshop run by artists for artists. 30 years ago CPC first opened its doors in an old, rented, 2nd story walk-up in Chicago's west-side, Ukrainian Village neighborhood. The shop was born because artist Deborah Lader, CPC's eventual director, was searching for a place to print her work in Chicago. Frustrated by a lack of suitable places, Deborah eventually decided to open her own space, and then everything fell into place. 

Deborah used money she had saved, from teaching at Indiana University Fort Wayne, to purchase a defunct print shop, previously owned by artists Bill Cass and Lee Stoops. Now with a space to fill, she began scavenging the city for needed supplies. Deborah's initial worries about her new business venture were dispelled when her beloved grandmother passed away, leaving her the exact amount of money she needed to purchase her first lithography press. Despite the personal loss, she now believed that the printmaking shop was meant to be. Deborah named that first press, bought in 1990, ‘Edith,’ after her grandmother. And with that key piece of equipment, CPC was born.

With the space, supplies and press in place, Deborah hoped that if she found some lithographic stones, as well as some important – but toxic, she admits – chemicals, the artists would come. And they did.


Catherine Winings prints a 4-color etching

CPC Today

30 years later Chicago Printmakers Collaborative now occupies their own space in Lincoln Square, featuring natural skylights that illuminate improved equipment – and less toxic chemicals. Though they moved just four tedious, stressful and expensive blocks in 2015, Deborah says now she feels like acquiring the space was “nothing short of a miracle” and that everyone feels at home in this location.

They're also able to offer more than ever. CPC currently houses an affordable print shop and hosts classes, workshops and lectures that serve the Chicago community. They feature equipment and materials to facilitate an impressive array of printmaking techniques, including lithography, etching, relief, monotype, books, and photography. Since screen printing was introduced in 1994, it has remained the shop's most popular class.

CPC also hosts international, as well as many local, print exhibitions, which have included resident group shows, touring shows and visiting artist exhibitions. Exhibitions often show traditional prints as well as works that challenge the more standardized “rules” of printmaking, with the hope that highlighting a range of work can expand the boundaries of the medium.

The Community & Recognition

CPC teaches hundreds of students who work diligently alongside professional printmakers, many of whom have wonderful things to say. CPC student George Bodmer shared, “The class was engaging, eye-opening, and addictive. Since then I have worked in various venues, with different presses, but constantly. The class at CPC really changed my life and hooked me on etching. Somebody last year asked me how many etchings I had done, and I looked and saw that I had averaged 25 a year for the last eight years; that’s an average of one every other week. The CPC provides a supportive artistic community, and provides a real addition to the neighborhood. When I was in a serious accident and hospitalized for a month four years ago, the CPC sent me some grounded plates to draw on, which really cheered me up. For the last several years I have exhibited almost continuously. CPC started the ball rolling for me.” 

CPC has also collaborated with a diverse group of civic organizations and corporations, ranging from the Chicago Park District and Gallery 37, to Target, with the intent of getting young artists excited about printmaking. The shop has also participated in international exchange collaborations with similar institutions, such as the Hard Ground Printmakers Studio in Cape Town, South Africa, and Galerie la Hune-Brenner in Paris, France, to name a few. 

Colleagues who have partnered with CPC also have raving reviews regarding their experiences. Mindy Neveaux, Events Manager of the Inspiration Corporatio said, “As the Event Manager at a local non-profit that helps homeless and low-income Chicagoans get back on their feet, I am so thankful for our partnership with CPC.  Every March we hold our biggest fundraising event, One Inspired Evening. It’s a silent art auction and is dependent on art donations from local and national artists.  The CPC has generously recruited their artists on our behalf and donated many, many wonderful pieces of art to the event.”

The institution’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by the greater community. CPC's director, Deborah, has been awarded the Columbia College of Chicago Paul Berger Arts Entrepreneurship Award, which honored CPC as an innovator among the many artistic institutions in Chicago. CPC also received the Arts Advocate Award from the Ravenswood Art Walk in 2007, as well as the Cultural Contributor of the Year award from Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce in 2003. 

CPC’s gallery walls and flat files are now home to the works of over 85 artists, including: Hiroshi Ariyama, Matt Bodett, David Driesbach, Tony Fitzpatrick, Christine Gendre-Bergere, Karinna Gomez, Michael Goro, Dan Grzeca, Eric Hoffman, Mirka Hokkanen, Teresa James, Raeleen Kao, Ryan Kapp, Amos P. Kennedy Jr., Damon Kowarsky, Karen Kunc, Deborah Maris Lader, Kim Laurel, Carrie Lingscheit, Kumi Obata, Dennis O’Malley, Jaco Putker, Artemio Rodriguez, Jay Ryan, Jeff Sippel, Sarah Smelser, Megan Sterling, Kouki Tsuritani, Nicola Villa, Art Werger, Scott Westgard and others.

Exhibition openings and open houses for group shows occur throughout the year on Saturday evenings, from 5–8pm.

A CPC STEAMROLLER event from 2018

What’s Next

Besides continuing to improve the Lincoln Square location, CPC will be anchoring a brand new neighborhood arts fest, STEAMROLLER 2020, which will take place on July 25, 2020. This fest will close down an entire section of Lincoln Avenue so Deborah can live out one of her own "bucket list" items. During this fest visitors will have the chance to see Deborah print eight-foot woodcuts in the middle of a busy city street.

CPC will first kick off their year of celebrations this weekend, when the 30th Annual International Small Print Show opens. Visit the shop from 11am–7pm on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8 to begin toasting CPC’s anniversary and to view the new exhibition, shop for the holidays and enjoy the festivities. The show boasts over 60 artists from all over the world as well as handmade gifts plus refreshments.

There is a plethora of other “30” themed events to celebrate CPC's milestone in 2020, including open houses, a collaborative print portfolio called 30/2020, an exhibition called 30 artists/30 years, a $30 sale, a stellar parade of visiting artists (Beauvais Lyons, Stephen Prince, Charles Cohan, and others), the 30-year celebratory STEAMROLLER arts fest, and much more.

Keep track of all these events on CPC’s listing and by checking their website.

Happy anniversary!