On a plank of wood that almost looks soft, there’s a discarded quill, bent like a fern. Ink still wet and velvety at the tip. Beside it, the inkwell. Its mouth beckons, shallow cap flung open while the well of black liquid suggests there’s more inside. Beside them, a letter opener, and a sense that the table could go on forever.
It comes with a note. If you want to take it home and keep looking, you can — and not for the small fortune usually associated with buying art.
The work — artist Mike Angelis’s Captain’s Desk — is part of a new initiative called “Lunch Money Print” that seeks to teach young people about collecting and to connect local artists and their viewers in the process. In monthly or tri-monthly subscriptions, subscribers can try out different levels of collecting — all introductory — then watch tutorials about how the work was conceived and made.
At an official launch party Saturday afternoon at Westville’s Studio Feruvius, founder Chris O’Flaherty explained that “Lunch Money Print” began with him struggling to earn lunch money himself. After graduating from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 2014, he noticed two things. First, it was really hard to be a printmaker and painter when rent was due, groceries needed to be bought, the car maintained. He had almost no time to practice his craft. Gigs as a full-time house painter and part-time event contractor left him exhausted, and barely making enough to get by.
Second, he noticed that friends outside of the art world seemed intimidated by the idea of viewing and collecting art. They assumed that it meant waiting for a fat tax refund, or borrowing hundreds of dollars that they wouldn’t be able to pay back. For them, he realized, there was no difference between buying a one-of-a-kind oil painting and a limited-run woodcut print. They both seemed prohibitively out of reach.
He began to wonder if bridging the two worlds was the key to sustaining his career. Printmaking, to him, was the perfect medium to do so — prints are made in multiples, which means that they have wider channels of distribution than paintings, and are usually less expensive as a result. The processes by which they are made — carved or etched on a block or copper plate, and then inked and pressed — thrilled him. If he could teach his friends about appreciating prints, he thought, maybe he could earn just enough “lunch money” to be okay as an artist.
“Artists aren’t looking for a lot of money — they’re just looking for enough to make it sustainable,” he said. “They’re getting little bits to keep them going.” And “there are so many serious artists out there who are just waiting to be discovered,” he added.
So he got together a dedicated group of artists, friends from his time at Lyme Academy, visits to Connecticut studios, and an apprenticeship with lithographer James Reed.
Saturday, the artists began to spring from from the woodwork. Standing at one end of the room beside her work Abuelo, printmaker Adriana Prado recalled how difficult it had been to find work after graduating. When she found a job at an art materials store in New York City, she jumped into it eagerly — but had to move back in with her parents in the city.
“My first thought was: How am I going to survive as an artist?” she said. “I feel fortunate to have found work. But I don’t have that much time to be working on my art. So my hope through this is exposure — being able to reach more people with what I’m making.”
Photographer Kevin Corrado agreed, noting that his work Neither Here Nor There could give viewers a sense of layered imagery and multiple exposures. In the photograph, a figure looks out on a city street, the criss-cross of telephone wires barely visible above his head. The sky is washed out; there’s no horizon line. Except there is, inside the figure, where sea, sky, and sinking sun meet each other within the outline of a person.
Pondering over it, artist Daniel Eugene — who has not yet put his work into the “Lunch Money Print” rotation, but opened his apartment and exhibition space for the show — explained that he thought this was the power of the series: works that made viewers look twice, and start thinking about the image as something they might want to hang onto.
“This is about the relationship between artist, artwork, and space,” he said. “It’s encouraging regional artists to build a reputation in the community. Their images, I think, facilitate a tradition of human consciousness.”