Zygote Press Celebrates 20 Years with a Special Event This Week

Twenty years, an estimated 300 exhibitions, 86 artist residencies, 80 festivals and public events and more than 1,000 tours for more than 15,000 students. We could go on, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Zygote Press has blazed a trail for nonprofit arts organizations everywhere. This week, they celebrate their 20th anniversary with their "Lovin' Spoonful 20th Anniversary Dinner" and a special preview of ReUnite: 20 Years in Print, an exhibition created at Zygote Press by local artists.

The dinner begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, at Tastebuds, and is hosted by honorable "Big Spoon" emcee Joe Cimperman. The event also includes a raffle for prints by artists including Christi Birchfield, the Rev. Albert Wagner, Laurence Channing and Audra Skoudas; raffle tickets are $20 each. Noted local ceramicist Kristen Cliffel has created limited edition Lovin' Spoonful pasta bowls, which come with a pound of squid ink pasta from Ohio City Pasta for $50. Live music will be performed by Richard Szekelyi and Amanda Walsh. Tickets are $75 and include dinner and two drink tickets. Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased in advance.

Can't make dinner? For a suggested $20 donation at the door, you can enjoy a dessert preview of ReUnite: 20 Years of Print back at Zygote Press at 8 p.m. The exhibit features prints by more than two dozen of the region's most accomplished artists. As organizers explain, "Some, such as Gloria Plevin, Margaret Yuko Kimura and Michael Loderstedt, have returned to the Press throughout their careers; others, including Michaelangelo Lovelace, Amy Casey and countless other national and internationally known resident artists, are more recent additions to the roster. All share an enthusiasm for expanding their artistic practice by making prints."

Guests will have an exclusive opportunity to purchase prints from Zygote Press' fundraising archive; sales proceeds will benefit both the artists and the organization. And attendees also will have an opportunity to print their own works of art, with commemorative wooden spoons on handmade paper from the Morgan Conservatory, using linoleum blocks carved by Zygote artists.

Liz Maugans, Kelly Novak, Bellamy Printz and Joe Sroka founded Zygote Press in 1996 in the Buckeye Carbon Ribbon factory on 72nd Street and St. Clair Avenue. Zygote began with about 3,000 square feet, but eventually expanded to over 7,000 square feet, including a large gallery and reception area. Zygote moved to its current location on East 30th Street in 2006.

"Due to many factors, we decided to move to a new, ground-floor space on 30th Street in the Midtown neighborhood," says Bellamy Printz, co-founder and president of Zygote Press' board of directors. "The current space allowed Zygote to experience a rebirth of sorts ­— more audience members than ever, more artists working in the shop at all times, and a dedicated space for screen-printing and letterpress that is well organized and very popular. We have always had resident artists who rent studios and lockers, giving them 24-hour access, but now with the addition of ZPASS (our residency apartment upstairs), artists from all over the country and the world embed themselves in our already active and creative environment."

In 2010, Zygote founded the Collective Arts Network (CAN) that produces the quarterly CAN Journal, featuring regional arts news and events. In 2012, Zygote Press won a highly coveted Cleveland Arts Prize. Last year, Zygote opened Ink House, a satellite location just off of Waterloo Road in Collinwood.

"With so much going on in the workshop itself, we needed a 'clean space' to support the contract printing that we do to earn income, and so Ink House was born last year in the Waterloo neighborhood," Printz explains. "Christi Birchfield is the manager of Ink House, and since opening in fall of 2015, she has produced several editions for local and national artists, and will soon be working with our newest Creative Fusion artist (through the Cleveland Foundation's program) from Albania, Anila Rubiku, on some projects."

Zygote stayed ahead of the curve last year when it began a major initiative to transition to a more "green" studio.

"Our newest initiative is being spearheaded by Rebekah Wilhelm, our workshop manager, and that is the 'greening' of the shop," Printz says. "Printmaking is, both historically and by its very nature, a potentially toxic practice. Acids, solvents, inks: All have the potential to damage the printer's health and affect the workshop environment. Zygote's mission can include the word 'healthier' as we have introduced new methods to make prints that are not only non-toxic, but allow for even more technical breadth in the creating of intaglio and lithographic prints. We see this as a way to further attract artists to our workshop, and to help minimize the significant impact that many art materials can have on our health and environment. Between Ink House and the greening of the shop, we start our 20th year with great anticipation."