by Sam DePaul
In the far-stretched main room of a West Hill house, there is a fireplace supporting mason jars filled with well-loved brushes stained of paint, as well as piece after print made by local artists from all paths and inspirations. Beside the fireplace sits the current live-in artist, Veronica Ceci, casually working on her next project: Un-America. She’s preparing multiple cutouts in the shape of our country which will soon complete a puzzle. On one side, Akronites will draw or design something they find joyful about living in our country, and on the other side, something they find challenging.
This is Rubber City Prints (RCP), a local printmaking studio run by Krista Rickert and Pamela Testa, two Akronites who hope the studio will help keep recently graduated printmakers and artists in the area. Upon outgrowing the ground of Summit Art Space, RCP moved to 467 West Market Street, where they found a house to convert into a space for people to create, workshop and buy pieces by Akronite printmakers.
“It has been a whirlwind of excitement and changes,” says Executive Director Krista Rickert of her start with the studio. After she graduated from Kent State University in 2013 with a BA in Printmaking (as well as a BA in Psychology), Rickert felt she had a lot to offer to such a startup, and now here she is, adorned in her denim apron with a precise excitement to share what she does as an Akron artist.
“I saw a void that needed filled within the organization and noticed that Rubber City Prints’ mission was my dream brought to life,” Rickert says.
Collected, with a slight buzz in her eye, Rickert explains what RCP is all about. Printmaking is a process where ink is transferred from a matrix or plate to a piece of paper with the aide of pressure. The image is created on a matrix, usually of wood, metal or stone, and can then be inked many times to print many impressions of the same image. And Rickert, among other local artists, wanders a house they renovated for artists to use with unlimited hours, as she rightfully claims the best time for an artist’s inspiration is night.
“Printmaking tends to be a communal process because of the nature of the studio,” Rickert says. “Painters, sculptors, illustrators, etc. tend to have private studios where they work. Printmakers share space in a shop.”
But the most enticing–and maybe unexpected–aspect of RCP is the melding of modern minds with ancient tools and techniques. A few steps from the side door to the house rests an 1800’s proof press—a mere hunk of steel to others, but printmakers use this gadget to see how an image is coming along while still in process.
“The press weighs about 200 pounds, so you definitely will get a great upper body workout using it,” Rickert says. “I think many people would agree, including RCP members, that artists are continually using [antique] equipment or forgotten processes. It somehow saves and romanticizes these antique tools and techniques.” This is a sentiment that can resonate with and inspire any artist visiting RCP.
Rickert is convinced that Akron is just the right location for an artist the thrive. “Akron loves to celebrate and knows how to party,” Rickert says. “Don’t we Akron? It’s a place people want to be.”
Rickert believes that Akron has a lot of potential, but emphasizes that we need to keep fine art graduates here. “There is a lot of struggle once students get out of school and start their own lives,” she says. “We noticed Akron artists did not have access to the facilities required to use printmaking in art—it just makes sense that we would want to be located where such action is.”
Quite fitting for the city we live in, RCP isn’t just a studio or fixed up house. It’s a home. It isn’t just a temporary space for artists such as Veronica. It’s welcoming and ever-changing—a mark of community in itself.
Rubber City Prints
467 West Market Street
Anyone interested in renting the Artist Caretaker room may apply through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.