One of the most exciting things to see in Buffalo, now that there is a nice little renaissance underway, is that people are no longer just concentrating on development projects in the usual suspect locations. Take Rocco Termini and Chandler Street for example. As buildings become harder and harder to find, and real estate prices continue to surge, there is a need to get more adventurous when it comes to identifying properties that are located in off the beaten path neighborhoods. One such neighborhood that is currently bubbling up… doesn’t even have a name. It’s centralized around the corner of Elmwood and Hertel, where Uniland recently planted a large flag (see here). This is also the neighborhood that will be the new home to Hyatt’s – All Things Creative. And right next to Hyatt’s is a giant LA Fitness. Not to mention myriad other new businesses that proliferate the corner.
The latest business to add to this vibrant mix is Mirabo Press – the name is a mashup of the founders’ names: Bob Fleming, Rachel Shelton, and Mizin Shin. Together, the three have started a printmaking studio that is unlike anything else that we have seen in Buffalo to date. In fact, this type of studio (dedicated to fine art) is not typically found in mid-sized cities such as Buffalo, unless they are affiliated with a university. Mirabo Press recently opened at 11 Botsford Place, which is essentially a nondescript back alley that juts off Hertel. Unless you were heading to Mirabo Press, or you needed to get your school bus fixed, chances are you would never know that this street even existed. And that’s part of the mystery and charm.
Fleming, Shelton, and Shin looked for quite a while before pinpointing an old industrial building on Botsford Place. The structure was once home to Sherwood Electromotion – a company that made engines for railroad locomotives. It turned out that Sherwood Electromotion needed more space, and ended up leaving for larger digs in the WNY area. That freed up the perfect spot for Mirabo Press.
Today the printmaking studio houses two of the largest print presses in the surrounding area. According to the trio, the larger of the presses will be a draw for artists to travel to Buffalo from around the world, to work with the the Mirabo Press talents to create larger than life works that are normally out of reach for most artists. A press of this nature might be found in NYC, or Chicago, but Fleming, Shelton, and Shin are banking on Buffalo for allowing print rates to be lower than larger cities. For example, an artist can fly into Buffalo, stay for a week, and work closely with the Mirabo Press team to ensure that the end product is up to his or her standards. A stay in NYC would be more expensive, as would the printing process. But in Buffalo, they can keep all of these costs to a minimum, thus attracting artists who are looking to keep their own costs down.
The former industrial building might be a bit nondescript from the outside, but on the inside the 6800 square foot space unfolds magnificently, allowing for plenty of room for limited edition printing (intaglio, monotype, relief, and screen printing), flat file storage, dark room, a spray booth, three offices, and even some side projects. The space offers each of the printers, who are also artists, to design a layout that works for everyone. That’s an important aspect of the project, because even though they all share an interest in print making, they also have their own unique artistic bents.
So how did the three come together to embark upon this fascinating collaboration? University at Buffalo was the commonality. They met at print shop, which offers a program to community members who are interested in print media. Before long, they became acquainted with each other as printers and artists, but more importantly they all realized that they shared another passion. They discovered that each one had a desire to build a print shop. Shin had worked at the print shop in Korea. Shelton was thinking about constructing a print shop in the basement of her home. And Fleming, a retired lawyer, was considering what it would take to purchase a building, which would accommodate the sizable equipment that he had in mind. This is truly one of those stories where the stars aligned to create a business that incorporated the desires of three driven creatives, bound together through their love of print making.
Moving forward, Fleming, Shelton, and Shin will be looking to work with both regional and national artists. They will also be looking to team up with local art institutions. The building will be used for special events, but it will not act as a gallery. The plan is to show the works that are created at other gallery spaces.
While this certainly isn’t the first print venture in Buffalo – we’ve had a rich history – there are definitely a number of elements that are specific to Mirabo Press, including being uniquely equipped to work with the public right now.
They will also be looking to expand their range of services, by purchasing a one arm press (for even larger printing). The trio will be doing some experimenting when it comes to community programming. This is not a cooperative studio, but there will be some educational and community programming incorporated into the model. We’re not looking at rigid formatting here – instead, there is a fluidity that will allow Mirabo Press to grow in ways that all three founders see fit. While this is a private undertaking, there is importance being placed on the democratic and socially formative nature of the medium.
With the addition of Mirabo Press to the cultural landscape of Buffalo, this city will now be represented at two major print making conferences each year, thus giving a voice to WNY in what can be considered a rather exclusive media realm. That’s just one of the many benefits that comes with the opening of this sensational cultural enterprise. Another is that each of the founder’s voices has equal say when it comes to what takes place within the space, from the events and programming to the equipment. To that end, Mirabo Press is also home to an oversized enameling kiln, which is the only one of its kind in the area – used to make sculptural glass works. The addition of the kiln was a prerequisite by Shelton, who once had access to this sort of glass making equipment when she lived in Cleveland.
“The kiln plays a part here – where printmakers normally have to ‘strike’ their plates to ensure they won’t be printed again, ruining the value of the edition, we can do something else – enamel on the smaller plates and give them a second life,” said Shelton.
To me, that says it all – the printmaking studio is open to all sorts of ideas. By being considerate of the collective’s pursuits and passions, additional doors will open in ways that have yet to be determined. This is a Buffalo that we can all be proud of, where urban pioneers are now breaking new grounds that will translate to enhanced opportunities for others to explore and capitalize upon in years to come.
Lead image: Mirabo Press