Last week I sat down with Alison Kleiman of Spudnik Press to discuss their expansion project, her role as vice president of the board, and the value of Spudnik to her and the Chicago arts community.
Zachary Johnson (ZJ): First off, could you explain how you came to be involved with Spudnik Press?
Alison Kleiman (AK): I got in contact with Angee [Lenard, founder of Spudnik Press] through Marwen. Angee and my fiancé taught a class together, and I think she knew that I was working towards an arts administration degree and was also involved in printmaking. At that time I wasn’t an active printmaker, so it was kind of, you know, classic networking — the “small world artists in Chicago” situation.
So I was tangentially involved with her a couple times as [Spudnik] became an actual non-profit organization.
ZJ: Did you meet Angee when she was still running Spudnik from her apartment?
AK: Yeah…and then she moved to the new space. I helped her come up with some things when she was thinking of becoming a more official organization and was asked to be a board member from that.
ZJ: What duties do you have as a vice president?
AK: As a small organization, everyone shares responsibilities pretty evenly. I mean the secretary keeps notes and the treasurer keeps track of the money, but I think I’m just more of a go to person because of my business knowledge. Other than that, I think we all have equal footing.
ZJ: Could you explain the goal of Spudnik’s Space Race?
AK: Space Race was dreamt up at the end of 2010. So, very recently it really came to fruition. We’ve known that we’ve wanted to move into a new space but it really was 2010 that we actively started checking out other spaces and looking into the buying of potential space. And when we decided to stay in the same building we’re already in, that became quite feasible. So we wanted to expand. We were starting to get all these donations of new technology and just had no space to store it, so we thought now is the time to really grow.
ZJ: I know you guys are going to be offering offset printing and letter press printing. What else do you think this new space will allow you to do as far as new opportunities for Spudnik?
AK: Well, having more room will make it so that people don’t feel that they’re tripping over each other. The new space is a clean slate. It’s beautiful. We’re also building out the facilities that we need. So everything will be more specific per medium. Also, we’re going to have studio space that has a door that you can lock. So, that’s another kind of thing that we can offer now that we weren’t able to before. They would have 24-hour access to the space and use of the equipment. That’s a huge kind of boost.
ZJ: Will you be able to offer more classes?
AK: I think so. Because we’ll have more room there will be an area where you can have a class going on at the same time as open studio potentially without tripping over each other. There’s about three times as much space. It’s really big. So there will be able to
be multiple things happening at the same time that couldn’t have happened before. And then having more classes because of letter press…and offset [printing] would be a huge jump.
ZJ: What has been the greatest challenge so far during the fundraising campaign?
AK: The hardest part is figuring out who our audience is supposed to be. How do we as a fledgling organization tackle Chicago’s big players? We want to reach out to people and get new people in the space, but also want to figure out why people would want to be involved with Spudnik. So, we’ve been starting a better mailing list, trying to consolidate our previous marketing. That’s been going really well. We had a feature in Timeout. We’ve been on Bad At Sports. We’ve had a lot of really positive press about our efforts. But for any small organization, where its main supporters are young artists, it’s really tricky to get big donors. Like, the subscription service [a program where patrons will receive a monthly limited edition print from Spudnik artists for twelve months] starts at $250, which is probably more than eighty percent of the people who print at Spudnik can afford. So it’s going to be a challenge to see how we can market those to people that we want to target.
ZJ: Has anything gone better than expected with Space Race?
AK: I think everything’s gone faster than expected, which has been fantastic. Like the landlord of the building let us have the lease way earlier than we thought. So that and building the space has gone better than imagined. And all the press that has happened with this campaign has been really positive.
ZJ: In your opinion, what does Spudnik offer to the Chicago arts community? What do you think its value is for the city?
AK: I think it’s one-of-a-kind in that it offers high quality facilities to people like recent undergrads. I know it was tough when I graduated, having had all the facilities I ever wanted and then all of a sudden I didn’t have any of that. So, it’s awesome that Spudnik has facilities for people who don’t have a printing studio in their basement. It’s also nice that it’s community based. It’s a big open room, and you’re sharing space with people.
It’s just a nice space where people can connect to each other in an artistically productive way.
ZJ: Lastly, what do you personally gain from working with Spudnik? What does Spudnik mean to you?
AK: It’s great to put all the things I’ve been passionate about in one space. As someone with a printmaking background and an arts administration side, it’s been awesome to really feel like I can bring something of value to a community. And as a twenty-five year old, be[ing] able to be on a board, [has] been a great experience.
To donate to Space Race, take classes at Spudnik, join their subscription program, or just learn more, check out their website .