Genesee Center for the Arts and Education, Rochester NY

The Itinerant Printer project won’t officially kick off until 2015, but in the meantime I thought it would be wise to do few test runs at letterpress shops closer to home. Luckily, I had a few friends who were very accommodating – in this case, Mitch Cohen, the Printing and Book Arts Program Director at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education. What a mouthful – from here on out, we’ll call them PABA and GCA. I landed at GCA PABA on December 20th and spent the day.

The GCA started in 1970 as a community art space, and it was incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1973. It’s housed in an amazing old brick firehouse (c. 1904-1905) and features a full letterpress studio, a paper making studio, a nascent screen printing studio, a pottery studio, and a fully functioning community darkroom. Members are provided access on a monthly basis for a modest fee, and different tiers designate different levels of access.

The space at GCA PABA is clean, well-lit, and fundamentally romantic – who doesn’t love the idea of a studio in a cool firehouse with exposed brick walls and 15 ft. ceilings full of Vandercook proofing presses, a Heidelberg, a C & P, and hundreds of drawers of metal and wood type? The studio is well-organized and well-appointed, and Mitch was his calm, cool, relaxed self when I enquired about using the space.

Perusing the collection that Mitch has acquired and curated since PABA was established in 2005 was exciting, but daunting. I quickly realized that I wanted to print hundreds of things, not just one. I realized my main task during The Itinerant Printer tour was not going to be printing; it was going to be choosing what to print. I decided to keep things simple and selected a number of lower-case gs from the more idiosyncratic drawers of wood type and laid them out in a forme. I pared that idea down even more, and simply went with two gs overprinted in 3 colors: yellow, purple, and fluorescent pink (how could I resist?).

The conversation was easy, the tone was light, Mitch and I had a beer (Genesee Cream Ale of course, my grandfather’s favorite, brewed in Rochester) – but what was really surprising, and worked just as I had hoped, was that other printers in town stopped by to visit. I was really excited to see that Geri McCormick and Matt Rieck from Virgin Wood Type stopped by, as well as my friend Chris Charles from Fly Rabbit Press – present in spirit (via text) was Amy Rau from Green Girl Press. Chat, print, sip, chat, print, sip. Geri was kind enough to bring me a few pieces of wood type (french stars and knickbocker birds, see below). A few hours passed, and I had the very first postcard for The Itinerant Printer project.

If you’re ever in Rochester, NY, hit up the PABA at GCA. It’s not to be missed – you’ll marvel at the wood type, the presses, and the building itself, and if you’re lucky, you’ll meet Mitch and a few of the locals.