The creation and promotion of printmaking, which is one of the most democratic art forms is an inspirational, and stimulating, endeavor. Tandem Press, based at UW-Madison, offers an extraordinary educational experience for students, faculty, and the community, which is unparalleled at any other university in the United States. Tandem Press is an artistic laboratory where creative experimentation is undertaken by internationally recognized artists, UW-Madison students, art department faculty, staff and volunteers.
UW-Madison’s stated mission is threefold: teaching, research, and public service. Tandem Press shares this mission by teaching, undertaking research into new and old printmaking techniques, and by conducting outreach programs to help educate the public about art in general, and printmaking in particular. Tandem Press is affiliated with the Art Department in the School of Education.
In 1936, the School of Agriculture undertook an extraordinary artistic experiment when it appointed John Steuart Curry as the first artist-in-residence in the United States. Throughout the following decades, the University established several residency programs in various visual arts, theatre, dance, and music departments. Bill Weege joined the Art Department faculty in 1971. As a distinguished professor in the graphics area, he had a very successful career as an artist, and remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1998. In 1971, he established Off Jones Road Press at his studio in Barneveld, Wisconsin. He invited nationally recognized artists, including Alan Shields and Sam Gilliam, where they created editions of prints every summer, and employed graduate students to assist in the process. This was the forerunner to Tandem Press.
Off Jones Press was irreverent, iconoclastic, totally experimental, and unique. The studio was located in a barn, and occasionally ink was applied to prints with shotguns rather than rollers. The horizons of many students were immeasurably broadened and expanded in this creative environment.
In 1986, Weege proposed to the Art Department faculty that a viable fine art press be established and supported through donations, grants and sales. The faculty unanimously supported the idea, and the Dean of the School of Education threw his full support behind the concept.
In the fall of 1987, Tandem Press was born. With the support of a subscriber program, funding was raised to support the initial operating expenses.
It was clear that Tandem Press, because of its location within a university setting, by necessity had to be more formal than the relaxed atmosphere at the Off Jones Press, and yet, we strived to ensure that the ideal of experimentation and freedom of expression would continue to inspire everyone who came to the Press. As Weege cut back his involvement, it was clear that we could build upon this vision by inviting artists who expanded the idea of printmaking as we know it.
Over the years Tandem has invited many artists whom we believe push the boundaries of printmaking today. Artists like Sam Gilliam, Judy Pfaff, Suzanne Caporael, David Lynch, Robert Cottingham, Jaune Quick To See Smith, Robert Stackhouse, Art Spiegelman, Sam Richardson, Benjamin Edwards, GRONK, Al Held and Jim Dine have all made remarkable prints. These artists through their work have enabled Tandem Press to achieve national and international recognition.
Today, Tandem Press has a full-time staff of six art historians, artists, curators, and master printers. Bruce Crownover, master printer began as a student in that first year. Andy Rubin joined in 1988, and Paula Panczenko was appointed co-director in 1989. The core team also includes Tim Rooney, senior curator; Amy Newell, curator; Freye, master printer; and Jason Ruhl, master printer. The staff are an indispensable part of the organization and form the bridge between the artists and the students, acting as teachers, mentors, advisors, advocates and friends. In addition, fifteen students work at Tandem on a weekly basis. Twelve Art Department graduate students work in the studio, two Art History students work in the curatorial area, and one Arts Administration student works in the financial area.
Every participating student brings his or her own unique enthusiasm, dedication and inventiveness to the day-to-day operations. They are at the center of everything that is accomplished at Tandem Press.