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Some Chatter about Chatter, a Chicago Lit Event
By Quail Bell Social Butterfly
Windy City writing and printmaking are the belles of Printers Ball, a premiere literary event started in 2004 by Poetry magazine Associate Editor Fred Sasaki. The Printers Ball takes place June 28th at Hubbard Street Lofts in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood. We emailed Angee Lennard, director of Spudnik Press Cooperative, which tasks itself with organizing the Printers Ball, and asked her a few questions about this year's sparkling event:
QB: This will be the tenth Printers Ball. That must mean a lot of pressure to be extra banging. What will make this Printers Ball the Printers Ball of all Printers Balls thus far?
AL: There is a lot of pressure to throw the biggest and best Ball yet, but this is a challenge we were thrilled to take on. One highlight of the event that pays homage to the history of the event are the pop-up readings. We decided to include twice as many performers as usual, allowing us to showcase like never before the diversity of talent in our city as well as bring back performers from previous Printers Balls. We have increased the participatory aspects of the ball as well, with the majority of programming being hands-on experiences, like our program with Pixiehammer Press. Skillful poets will write a love letter or a hate letter to anyone, on your behalf.
QB: The website describes the event as "quintessentially Chicagoan." How are you honoring that promise? What do you think sets Chicago's literary and printmaking culture apart from other cities'?
AL: In truth, "quintessentially Chicagoan" is hard to define because we have a really diverse city. However, I will say that our literary and printmaking culture has as much to do with the artists producing work as the audience that supports their practice. Audiences tend to be more than spectators, acting as contributors and advocates. For example, our presenters include Pup House, a shadow puppet troupe, who will create in interactive shadow play with Printers Ball guests. We are teaming up with Maria's Packaged Goods, a landmark bar in the Bridgeport neighborhood that is known for their involvement in their community as much as their delicious local beers. Our city is also prolific and inventive. For example, Chicago is the home of Brain Frame, a performative comics reading series that is constantly breaking stereotypes with visual artists exploring how to translate comics into live experiences.
QB: How did you decide on programming? What were some of the challenges in determining the lineup?
AL: The first thing we did to ensure an amazing lineup of events was put together an amazing and diverse curatorial team. Printers Ball 2014: Chatter is curated by Sarah Dodson, MAKE Magazine; Kevin Kilroy, Black Lodge Press; Chad Kouri, The Post Family; Angee Lennard, Luke Daly, Veronica Siehl, and Caroline Walp, Spudnik Press Cooperative; and Corrina Lesser, Chicago Humanities Festival.
A lot of programming decisions came down to how we could curate an experience for guests that would truly represent what is happening today in Chicago. We don't want to overwhelm or prioritize any one movement or aesthetic. We kept an eye on how guests can move through the building through out the day and experience the depth and breadth of what is happening in Chicago and beyond.
QB: How will you personally spend your time at the Printers Ball?
AL: I am personally looking forward to making a print with The Press Bike. Led by Jo, the talented young daughter of owner and master printer at Starshaped Press, The Press Bike is a press on wheels that travels to fairs and festivals and really lives up to Spudnik Press' mission to keep printmaking within the reach of all! I'll also be stopping by The Book Exchange. Publishers from through out the country are sending in publications for guests to take home and read. Guests can purchase a Printers Ball totebag and stuff it with as many books as the tote will hold! And I can't deny that I am excited to enjoy a drink in the outdoor Beer Garden!
QB: What's your advice for first-timers, especially the easily overwhelmed?
AL: Everyone will get a brochure when they arrive, but we'll also have a full event schedule online for those who like to plan. If you aren't sure what you want to see, grab a drink and head to the top floor. Meander through the building and back to the parking lot at your own pace. We know guests won't be able to spend time with every program, and that each guest will be drawn to different programs more than others.
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