Elana Schwartzman recognized it the first time she rolled paper through antique press: The printed word is powerful. “There’s something about seeing words on paper. It’s different than typing something into Twitter or Facebook. When you take letters made of metal or wood, and you set them down and you line them up and apply ink and then you roll paper on top, it gives them this power to transform and to change, especially when those things are viewed in public,” she says.
Schwartzman’s love of letterpress printing eventually turned into a career and now it’s at the root of Proof Public, a community printing collective she founded. “Around the end of 2016, I began feeling like I really wanted to use my resources and my privilege to do what I could to advance equity in our communities,” she says. “I worked in grassroots organizing before I was a printmaker, and connecting and building relationships with communities through the arts is just a beautiful melding of the things I did before and what I do now. My values as a business owner say that I want to use what I have to help advance those values of equity and justice and this is how I do that.”
One of the ways Proof Public is making good on it’s mission is to host printing open houses at Schwartzman’s Font Love studio. The public is invited to create their own printed work using the type, ink and 100-year old presses in the studio. Schwartzman adds, “Letterpress printing is not an accessible medium. You need a lot of equipment, you need a lot of space for very big, heavy machines that they don’t make any more. We had this studio space and wanted to open it up to the public at no charge.”
Special Thanks: Laura Brown
Minnesota Music: John Mark Nelson
Production Team: Amy Melin, Brennan Vance
This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.