Tucked away in a small plaza on the outskirts of the University of South Florida’s campus is a hands-on research facility that has produced innovative work for decades — and we’re not talking about any science lab.
Under the umbrella of the Institute for Research in Art, the USF Graphicstudio is a world-renowned facility that invites established as well as emerging contemporary artists to produce limited edition prints and sculpture multiples. In 52 years, artwork created there by over 180 artists has been acquired by leading museums and collectors around the world, and Graphicstudio pieces now comprise 20% of USF’s permanent collection of over 5,000 works. It is the epitome of a hidden gem in Tampa.
Though Graphicstudio was formed in 1968 by Dr. Donald J. Saff, then the chair and dean of USF’s College of Fine Arts, to create a more lively campus environment that would replicate the excitement of when he was living in New York City, many locals are unaware of its significance in the art world.
“When Don founded it, he thought of Graphicstudio as an experiment in art and education. The heart of the mission is to invite artists to work in this collaborative environment to expand their practice and work in new mediums,” explains Margaret Miller, director of the Institute for Research in Art.
“Our highly skilled printmakers and fabricators offer a range of techniques and processes for artists to experiment and develop with the studio’s artisan collaborators. We really have a unique place nationally as a leading university press. Some days I realize that we’re better known outside of this area than we are here.”
Over the years, Graphicstudio has worked with art stars like Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Mapplethorpe. Artists who have recently been invited to work with Graphicstudio include Christian Marclay, Alex Katz, Diana Al-Hadid, Teresita Fernández, Iva Gueorguieva and Jason Middlebrook. Because of overhead expenses (including rent), selecting artists for the studio’s residencies can be tricky. The Graphicstudio team must find the appropriate intersection of diversity, contemporary cultural importance and marketability.
“In researching and considering artists to invite for residencies, multiple factors must be considered: Potential sales, cost of production, and most importantly, the value to the students, the broader community, and the art world,” Miller says. “I ask myself, will the selected artists introduce students to the creative process and a range of ideas and perspectives that will help them understand their place in today’s culture and advance their critical thinking and visual literacy skills?”
Collectively, Graphicstudio, the USF Contemporary Art Museum and Public Art make up the Institute for Research in Art. Because of the quality and connections between these programs, they receive grants from federal, state and local sources. Most recently, the Institute for Research in Art was awarded a prestigious grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation.
Graphicstudio funding comes from multiple sources, including the USF College of The Arts, private donations and sales of prints and sculpture multiples. Fundraising is always a challenge, and the studio often looks to special events to bring in extra money from private donors.
On May 2, Graphicstudio will host its annual Benefit Sale and Open House [Editor’s note: The print version of this story was published before Florida universities transitioned to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring semester due to coronavirus concerns. As of March 18, the Graphicstudio events mentioned here have not been canceled]. The Benefit Sale is a one-day opportunity for people who are interested in contemporary art, but perhaps don’t have experience collecting, to watch printmaking demos throughout the day and consider purchasing works by leading artists at discounted prices.
Then on May 30, Culinaria at the Contemporary Art Museum will offer ticket holders an immersive art experience with Mexican artist, Bosco Sodi, followed by a dinner.
“[Sodi] has done a series of richly textured paintings, an homage to his experience in Barcelona at the Joan Miró Foundation,” Miller says. “We’re going to have a candlelight viewing of these giant white paintings, followed by a mezcal and mole dinner prepared by chef Saul Carranza from Oaxaca.”
Additional funding will help support studio operations, staff salaries, educational programs, and will allow USF to continue elevating the local and national art scene.
“With these fundraising efforts, we can keep bringing significant leading and emerging artists to the community,” Miller adds.
To find out more about Graphicstudio and their upcoming events, follow their Facebook page and visit their website at graphicstudio.usf.edu.