In January, Margaret Miller became the new director of USF’s Graphic Studio. Miller has been at USF for 32 years as the director for the Contemporary Art Museum on campus. As she takes on the Graphic Studio, she will work to develop close relationships among the studio, the museum and the USF art department.
“We’re in transition,” said Miller. “We’re undergoing a huge change and trying to create a synergy between all the visual art interests on campus.”
Bringing these three entities together creates a number of opportunities for artists visiting USF, as well as for students and people in the community, Miller said. A visiting artist has the opportunity to work in the graphic studio, produce an exhibition with the museum and host lectures and workshops on campus for students and the public.
“It’s an enticing mix,” she said. “An artist would be very attracted to a situation like this. There isn’t another program like this in the country.”
Cuban artist Abel Barroso, for example, took advantage of these opportunities when he recently visited USF.
“Abel created a project for us in the studio, conducted a two-week workshop on printing for art students and hosted a public talk,” said Noel Smith, curator for education at the Graphic Studio.
Smith wants to expose artists to as many people on campus as possible while they are visiting the university.
“At times in the past, when we brought artists in, we hadn’t really created the opportunity for the artist to interact with many people,” she said. “In the future, we want to spread the artist around more. It’s better for the college as a whole if we collaborate.”
Miller said the main element used to entice artists to USF is the research element of the Graphic Studio. The studio helps artists produce contemporary art through screening, etching, lithography, photography and woodcutting.
“We take traditional printing methods and adapt them to fit the artists’ ideas,” Miller said. “We do this with the help of the studio’s staff and master printers.”
The studio is a gallery and also has rooms for people to make copies of other artists’ original works.
The adaptation of traditional printing methods results in innovative techniques used to create graphic art. The new techniques are shared with the art world through colloquia, seminars, workshops and publications of the research, Miller said.
“USF is a research university, and we have the highest level of research in the visual arts right here,” she said.When artists come to the studio, they live in the area while they work on a project.
“The artists work back and forth with the printers and the staff making changes and developing proofs until they are pleased with the result.”
Once the work is completed, 45 Graphic Studio subscribers have the option to purchase the art. The subscribers each pay $6,000 per year to be able to purchase the art at discounted prices. There is a waiting list for subscribers, and even to be on the list people must pay $500.
“The subscribers would be crazy not to buy the art,” Miller said. “All the pieces are limited edition originals, highly complex and hand-printed and developed.”
The prints not purchased by subscribers are put on the market.
“We’re not here for the money, but the studio is partly supported by subscribers and by the sale of art,” Miller said.
One of the hardest things Miller has had to face since becoming director for the Graphic Studio is the mountain of fund-raising that must be climbed for both the studio and the museum.
“Neither of the establishments are fully funded by the state,” she said. “I have to raise between $800,000 – $1 million per year so that we have the freedom to be experimental. Otherwise, we would have to worry more about selling art than about creativity and education.”
Miller is very pleased with the contributions the graphic studio and the museum make to the art world. She is disappointed, however, with student interest in USF’s art establishments.
“We are a research institution in an academic setting,” she said. “We want to introduce students to contemporary art and the making of it, but not everybody knows we’re here.”
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