Megalo Print Studio
I visited Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra on Thursday 19th Feb. I had spent the morning in the National Gallery of Australia (which in itself made me wish I’d planned a much longer stay in Canberra) and had taken a picnic lunch down by the lake. After lunch (partly spent watching an angler hauling in a huge fish), I allowed the satnav to direct me to Megalo’s address. I needn’t have bothered, it was only a couple of k’s down the same street but what an introduction to the studio: driving past what seemed like (and was) an enormously long frontage. Parking and walking back to the entrance was even better. I had to cross the street to fit this much in:
Sadly, I wasn’t there to see the neon sign lit:
Megalo is 35 years old. It began as a radical screenprint collective (as evidenced in the works shown in Megalomania : 33 years of posters made at Megalo Print Studio 1980-2013 by Chris Wallace: NLA link) and later incorporated an open access print facility, Studio One, to add relief, intaglio and lithography to its portfolio. It has since gone from strength to strength culminating in the move to these fantastic premises last year. The studio has a number of paid staff, all of whom are practising printmakers, and has an involved and active Board of Management. They are just getting started with recruiting volunteers and we discussed the successful approach that Leicester Print Workshop has taken.
I was met by Erica Seccombe, Acting Public Programs Manager, who gave me a tour of the premises and an introduction to the studio. (I later learned that Erica had just won the inaugural Paramor Prize: Art + Innovation: more here.) Later, I joined the team for lunch (wishing I’d foregone my crackers and cheese when I saw the fantastic salads they’d prepared) and chatted with Acting CEO/Artistic Director, Megan Jackson, to learn more about Megalo.
The studio has nearly 500 members. Any member can book time in the studio providing they have undergone the health and safety induction (which has to be retaken each year to learn of changes and to keep the knowledge fresh). There are hourly and day rates and proficient members can pay for extended access which allows use of the studio from 7:30 to 22:00. Full details here. They also feature a good range of course offerings, run on weekends or evenings.
One innovative idea they’ve had is the creation of Print Clubs: members interested in a technique come together to book one night a week for six weeks in one area of the studio and pretty much look after themselves: a great way to get experience in an area of printmaking without being all on your own. This is something I could relate to as a beginning printmaker.
As is apparent from the exterior signage, the studio is split into blocks, more or less dedicated to screenprinting (with a gloriously long table for fabric printing), lithography (including the biggest litho press in the southern hemisphere) and etching/relief (with three etching presses, one electrical in the litho space, and one Albion):
with associated prep & equipment areas:
In the middle is the office and library/lunch space and behind that, the litho graining sink:
Megalo offer an impressive six residencies per year: four go to local artists, one from interstate and one international. These residencies include significant stipends and a materials allowance and the international resident can also apply for travel funding. I’ll certainly be making LPW artists aware of next year’s residency opportunity when it opens. Details of the 2015 residencies are on the website.
The studio also coordinates a number of projects. An important one currently underway is the Anzac Centenary Print Portfolio 2014-15. Funded by the Australian War Memorial, this brings together ten artists, five from Australia and five from New Zealand, to work with the printmakers at Megalo to produce work that ‘explores the Anzac legacy and commemoration in a contemporary context’.
As if the huge workspace is not enough to inspire print-envy, Megalo also has a dedicated exhibition space. The evening of my visit, saw the opening of a new show, Quadriform, by Sui Jackson, work which ‘explores the intersection between the ancient processes of mark making and digital connectivity’. A couple of shots taken to show the space (on my camera phone while holding a glass of wine):
To conclude, I’d like to thank Megan, Erica and everyone at Megalo for making me welcome and taking the time to show me around and talk to me about the way the studio operates. I had a great time there, and felt so much at home that I even found myself volunteering to help fold leaflets in preparation for the gallery opening (kindly turned down since I was a guest)!