Megalo, the latest edition.
Megalo, the latest edition.
SourceAustralian Print Symposium. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1987 - ongoing.
Country of context
Megalo the Latest Edition
By Peter Zanetti
In September 2003 Megalo relocated its Press and Screenprinting workshops to a single location in Watson. The new facilities represent a major investment in visual arts infra structure in the ACT and are providing benefits to local and visiting artists from Australia and beyond.
We hosted our first international resident artist Wittamon Niwattichai from Thailand in November -simultaneously with a residency by Andrew Antoniou. These first residents in the new premises set the tone and a new tradition for the common room of a communal cup of tea at 11.00 or some time soon after. In January Susanna Castleden came over from Western Australia and shared the workshops with fellow residents Eleanor Gates-Stuart and Lindsay Dunbar. Of late we have been sharing tea with resident artists Kate Lohse and Leanne Crisp.
When Wittamon came she brought enough of her work for us to mount an exhibition in the new Megalo Gallery, which is located within a light filled atrium between the press and screen-printing workshops.
The layout and specifications for the workshops have been carefully planned to meet the needs of our access programs and provide a welcoming environment. Occupational health and safety standards are considerably better than those we have had before. The etching workshop has improved ventilation and the health and safety danger zones of the aquatint area and acid room have been contained, A separate solvent cleaning room has been installed to reduce fume volumes and a bench exhaust added to the lithography area.
We hope to further improve the fabric area in screen-printing in the near future with the introduction of dye printing. We are also looking to develop an access area for papermaking at the rear of the building if costs allow.
The revitalisation of Megalo has come about through a partnership with the local funding body ArtsACT and the support of the ACT Cultural Council and the ACT Government. It is a direct result of commitments made to Megalo at the time of the liquidation of Studio One assets in 2000. While the building at Watson was identified back then as being suitable for establishing the workshops under a single roof, it took over 3 years to negotiate a lease, secure the Capital Works funding and complete the fit-out for the new facilities.
They say good things come out of the bad and that is certainly what has happened through the demise of Studio One. Its crisis focused the minds and the energy of many people who lobbied hard to ensure there was an orderly break-up of the assets that would secure the equipment and keep it together as an operational entity. The collective energy they unleashed created a wave that Megalo has ridden and the initial objective has now been successfully achieved.
Our main objectives from here on are to remain financially viable - while implementing our core programs of –
• Workshop Access and Member Services
• Artist In Residence
• Megalo Gallery
• Projects Commissions and Edition Printing
• Education and Training
The Megalo Print Studio and Gallery operates on a six day week basis from Monday – Saturday between 9.30 and 4.30.
Experienced members and participants in the residency program have after hours access on a seven day week basis.
While we have developed these excellent new facilities - ensuring operational viability is still an uncertain matter from one year to the next. We survive on relatively lean resources
Elected Board 8 members
Staffing: - Director 27 hrs per week
- Artistic Manager 18 hrs
- Workshop Coordinator screenprinting 18hrs
- Press Workshop Coordinator 18hrs
We will receive a generous $162,000 in operational funding from artsACT but our expenditure will be around $240,00
> Wages and on costs = $120,000
> Rent = $44,500
> Artist In Residence = $20,000
Other operating expenses of $60,000 have to be raised through fees and charges and through commission projects.
Overview of Megalo Program Objectives
Megalo is a visual arts development organization that specialises in printmedia.
It provides physical and technical resources to support arts practice by artists and the community of the ACT.
It provides access to its workshop resources on a non-discriminatory basis.
Megalo promotes excellence and innovation through Artist in Residence programs that provide opportunities for visiting and local artists to make new work.
Megalo develops programs, commission projects and editioning partnerships with Arts organizations, institutions and individual artists.
Megalo engages with the wider community by providing print based training and introductory classes and by instigating activities such as exhibitions and cultural development programs.
Megalo turns 25 next year and looking back the organization has travelled a meandering journey adapting to change and grasping opportunities as they have arisen; attempting to meet both its own objectives and those of the various funding bodies who have provided it with funding over the years.
Megalo began in 1980 as a collective of artists and unemployed people who saw a need for a Screenprinting Cooperative which could provide the equipment and the workshop space which they needed to make art works and print posters and T-shirts to promote events and causes of concern.
They were supported by Jobless Action Network who were active in establishing cooperative community ventures and providing training for unemployed people. Jobless Action provided the first premises for the Screenprint Collective - a tin shed located at the Anslie Village, they also administered the initial grant funding that got things started.
Key people behind the establishment of the cooperative were Alison Alder and Colin Little. Colin had been a member of the Tin Sheds and Earthworks Print Collective in Sydney and Alison was a graduate of the Canberra School of Art.
In 1983 on the other side of Canberra Di Fogwell and Meg Buchanan with support from key people at the Canberra School of Art took out a lease on the first floor of a commercial building in Kingston and established Studio One. Its objective was to provide an access workshop for graduates and associates of the Canberra School of Art. Studio One as we know rose to gain a national and international reputation as a publisher and maker of fine art prints. Its demise in 2000 effectively ended its history but its potential through the resource of its equipment survives through Megalo. We do not presume to own anything else of its history or reputation – just the equipment and an admiration for the example.
There is a clear difference in the origins of the two organizations Megalo was anti establishment and even anti the School of Art in it’s early days. It began within a climate of Collective Social Activism which generated a demand for the diverse applications of screenprinting., Many posters were printed and events promoted through the Collective providing both workshop access and commission printing services. Megalo was a bit pink and Studio One was more of a fine art Blue Blood.
The original Megalo cooperative formally ended in 1985 when it was decided to incorporate the organization as a legal entity. Though its first phase probably ended much earlier, by late 1982 Colin Little had died and Alison Alder had directed her energies away from the workshop and into the Bitumen River Gallery. But Megalo continued as an open access workshop, successfully gaining funding to run training programs and undertake community arts projects. In late 1991 it hit a rocky patch and was placed on notice by the local funding authority, due to concerns about artistic standards. The perception being that Megalo had become more focussed on social activism than arts development, it had actually considered shifting its focus away from screenprinting to broad based cultural development in a failed attempt to meet the funding priorities of the Community Cultural Development Unit of the Australia Council.
The loss of direction was overcome in 1992 with the appointment of (our current) Artistic Manager, Paul Peisley. Paul was a graduate of the Canberra School of Art and had been employed at Studio One as an Edition Printer. He was given the brief to lift the artistic focus of Megalo. Community arts projects such as the “Backyard Projects” were undertaken with the Majura Women’s Group. They achieved quality outcomes by utilising the skills of respected local artists such as Franki Sparke and Annie Trevillian. Editioning partnerships were undertaken with Studio One, editions were screenprinted for artists such as Rover Thomas and Ian Abdulla. New Artist In Residence opportunities were offered through “Artists Space” projects, which gave artists access to the workshop and provided an exhibition opportunity. Then as now the need for extra income required Megalo to pursue commission projects, a number of these included Public Art Commissions in Civic. Screenprinting projects were undertaken on surfaces including the plexi glass roofs of bus shelters aluminium sign boards and even temporary works on plywood hoardings.
The acquisition of the Studio One equipment in 2000 represents a turning point for Megalo. At the time of the handover we agreed with the local funding authority that our priorities would be Access, Artist In Residence and Edition Printing. The new Watson facilities provide the space and the resources to achieve these objectives. But artists have changing priorities which we must also meet. The current access and artist in residence programs reflect a balance between artists using printmedia to produce printed editions and contemporary trends with artists choosing to use techniques such as screenprinting to produce one off images and installations rather than editions. We also find ourselves supporting new projects such as “Beam” which use data projection technology to create ephemeral prints in the public space. These are site-specific images that interact with and respond to the form and surface of host architecture.
Despite the new priorities to support excellence and innovation Megalo remains committed to its original open access policy and its arts development role within the wider community. We believe we can do this while meeting the needs of professional and emerging artists. In the long run it is the breadth of activity undertaken through the workshop that has aided our survival in an environment of constant change and journeys that often end in surprise destinations.
© Peter Zanetti, 2004
Paper presented at The Fifth Australian Print Symposium, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2004