SOMERS — The "26th Parkside National Print Exhibition," one of the longest-running competitive print exhibitions in the Midwest, is open in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Fine Arts Gallery of the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities, 900 Wood Road. The show will run through June 30.

In 1986 Professor Emeritus Doug DeVinny enlisted the support of the University Advancement Office to put on an exhibition that would have a national scope. The first "Parkside National Small Print Exhibition" (PNSPE) kicked off a year later and has been going strong ever since.

DeVinny’s original mission was two-fold: To educate our students and community about the art of printmaking; and, at the same time, to forge a national community of printmakers. The framed works that now hang on the university walls — winners of earlier shows — perpetuate this educational objective and celebrate the artists who made them.

This exhibition features prints utilizing traditional, hand-pulled media, including hybrid works combining traditional techniques with new media forms. To be eligible for the exhibition, prints must have been created within the last two years. For more than three decades, the "Parkside National Small Print Exhibition" has shown some of the finest examples of original prints in all media — intaglio, lithograph, relief, screenprint, and the list goes on — from artists nationwide.

Sarah Smelser, professor of art and associate director of the School of Art for ISU, served as the sole juror of the show. Prints arrived in February; she made her selections in March.  Smelser has been an artist in residence at the The Franz Masereel Center in Kasterlee, Belgium; Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, Calif.; Skopelos Foundation for the Arts in Skopelos, Greece; Anchor Graphics in Chicago; the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ballycastle, Ireland, and more. Her work is in such collections as the Readers' Digest Association, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, among others.

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Careful readers will note that the word “small” is no longer in the exhibition’s title. Both respecting traditions and evolving with new technologies, UW-Parkside has opened the door to a more capacious understanding of prints to include three-dimensional prints and alternative display methods. No size restrictions were placed on print submissions.

UW-Parkside had received nearly 600 submissions — not all were small — and Smelser selected 66 works to exhibit. Viewers will have the chance to appreciate the works of 57 artists from 26 states. Additionally, one $500 Best in Show was selected by the juror and announced at the gallery reception April 11.

UW-Parkside’s 50 Year Celebration motto, “Bold Beginnings, Future Focus,” can easily be applied to the tradition and innovation embodied by the national print exhibition. It has been an amazing 31 years and there will be many more to come.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or by appointment; call 262-595-2342 or 262-595-2564. There is no admission fee.

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