December 19, 2005

The Big Print and the Sesquicentennial Ball

By Dave Machacek

Printer/Artist Rick Swearer, Sponsor John Mathern, Artist Kari Alberg

ArtOrg has worked hard to create a viable printmaking group for about one year, and it is just now coming together in a big way! Last Saturday’s unveiling of a large traditionally-made lithographic print to rave reviews was one of many highlights to the special Northfield Sesquicentennial Governor’s Ball. The print was sold in a silent auction for $2300, which means that the committee has recouped its investment in the project already.

Photos of the print can be seen courtesy of’s wonderful coverage of the event. The first photo shows artist Kari Alberg and the print. The second shows MC Chip DeMann presenting a small color study to former Governor Al Quie. Another photo shows the print in the background, and still another shows the same. The litho print itself measured almost four feet wide and six feet tall. The print was a glowing participant on the left side of the Minnesota Jazz Orchestra and the Northfield Youth Choirs, and the large black-walnut presentation frame manufactured by Myrl Dahl was a wonderful accompaniment to the print.

It seems that some kind of a “perfect storm” came together that allowed the print to happen.

1) The special super-size litho press. The printing press was discovered in an old print shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Williamson family agreed to sell it to us. The print shop was run by the Williamson family for years but previously was the home of the A. C . Schultz Litho Company. Both commercial and art prints occasionally surface with the A.C. Schultz name on them. We then had to hire a professional machinery mover to lower it in pieces down a condemned elevator shaft. It cost us more to move the press than to purchase the press itself! The press is thought to be one of the oldest and largest of its kind still in existence, according to an official of the Tamarind Institute at the University of New Mexico.

2) Restoration and Setup of the Press. The press was restored over the course of the summer (thanks to Jim and Brian Machacek for putting up with the confusion in their shop), and then moved about two weeks ago into ArtOrg’s new printmaking facility in the basement of 314 Division Street. Here is a Flicker folder with the hair-raising photos of the press being moved into the new space. A special thanks to Mark, Tracy, DuWayne and Brian from Mueller-Dahl Interiors for their combined muscle on this tough job. The side frames of the press each weighed 600 pounds, the main yoke 500 pounds, the center drive roller 800 pounds and the cast-iron “platebacker” table must have been over 1000 pounds. The Witt Brothers’ engine hoist also provided well-needed help.

3) Support from Mendota Homes and others. Special thanks to John Mathern and Mendota Homes for their support that allowed us to rent new space for the printmaking studio. ArtOrg has had a strategy to provide equipment-intensive-studios to artists for over one year now, and John liked the idea. We want to show John and the community that this type of studio can be effectively run and can pay its own way. This is the only way the proposed arts building by Mendota Homes for the corner of Second Street and Highway 3 will work. Also thanks to new landlord Craig Perman for his encouragement and to other tenants of 314 The Art Store, Kids on Division and Anna’s Closet for the occasional confusion during the last few weeks. Webmeister Michael Blaha took many of the photos you see in this post.

4) Artist/Printer Team. The combined artist/printer team of Kari Alberg and Rick Swearer were available and willing to put the idea into reality. Kari had worked on similar types of subject matter in the past, and her litho-style pieces for the San Francisco Opera’s 100 anniversary performance of La Boheme were well-received and even won several illustration awards. The images were used in large scale as bus shelter posters, and 80 were distributed throughout San Francisco. When the opera went to retrieve them, they could only find ten copies–all the rest were stolen! Rick is a great printer and not only provided skillful expertise but also a cool yet strong determination that propelled the project consistently forward. Several photos are shown here which capture the actual printing of this edition.

In conclusion, the large and traditionally-made litho print was a great success, and we were very lucky to be part of such a wonderful event for Northfield and the area. The Sesquicentennial Governors Ball Committee should be given a big round of thanks for supporting this project.

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