Prairie print makers


Formed in 1930 in Lindsborg, Kansas, the artist membership included many of the country's foremost printmakers including Gustave Baumann, Gene Kloss, Birger Sandzen, Maynard Dixon, Luigi Lugioni and John Taylor Arms. The purpose as stated in a letter by Coy Avon Seward was "to further the interest of both artists and laymen in printmaking and collecting." Artists were charged one-dollar per year, and collectors were required to pay five dollars per year. Each year one of the artists was chosen to do a print, which would be The Annual Gift Print given exclusively to the members and limited to an edition of two hundred. Norma Bassett Hall designed the logo. Yearly the Prairie Print Makers sponsored traveling exhibitions throughout the United States to schools, libraries and civic organizations. In this way, artist members got wide exposure and sales and sponsoring entities had access to high-quality art and could get commissions on sales. The group was formally initiated on December 28th in the studio of Birger Sandzen, a professor at Lindsborg's Bethany College. His good friend, Coy Avon Seward of Wichita, issued the invitations, and present in addition to Seward and Sandzen were Leo Courtney, Charles Capps, Lloyd Foltz and Clarence Hotvedt, Arthur and Norma Bassett Hall, Herschel Logan and Edmund Kopietz. Courtney was elected president. The first order of business was inviting William Dickerson of Wichita to join the group. "The entire financial philosophy of the Prairie Print Makers in its early days was in keeping with the constraints of the Depression era. Sandzen and Seward felt so strongly that prints should be affordable to everyone that they asked members to sell their work for the lowest possible prices. The Secretary-Treasurer, paid $25.00 per month, was the only hired staff person, and had the responsibility of expanding the membership and handling the exhibition details including packing, shipping, and distributing the society's annual print. By the mid 1930s, Prairie Print Makers was a well-established entity and had members in many states as well as Hawaii and Washington DC. Thirty-one exhibitions had been held, and forty-seven artists were members, having submitted portfolios for acceptance. The organization continued to expand in the next few years; thirty-four gift prints were created, and with the exception of three were American Scene subjects in a variety of styles. Methods included lithography, etching, woodblocks, drypoints and aquatints. Some were printed by the artists and others by a printing company. Prairie Print Makers came to an end in 1966, its member goals achieved of stimulating interest in printmaking and selling work by the artists. "The society had also provided an important bond of interest and purpose that made the lives of the ten original Kansas-based founders less isolated and removed from the art centers of the rest of America. . . .and perhaps most importantly, a sense of identity as artists, even though for all of them financial reality meant supporting their families through jobs as commercial artists or teachers." (9-10) Source: Barbara Thompson O'Neill and George C. Foreman, ???C.A. Seward???, ???The Prairie Print Makers???, pp. 12-19. Courtesy Denise Morris.