With newspapers across the country ditching daily editions as they struggle to stay afloat, it is in some ways a terrible time for print. But not at the Small Press Fair, an annual expo in South Florida that celebrates ink-on-paper creativity in its many maker forms and just keeps on flourishing.
With a move to new digs at the MAD Arts gallery in Dania Beach this much-anticipated gathering of independent publishers, designers and artists is also expanding into a two-day affair for the first time since its founding in 2016.
The larger space can accommodate 70 different vendors. (There’s still time to apply for a table.) Among the local, regional and national exhibitors expected to return with new wares this fall: New York visual and sound artist Richard Vergez, who also owns a Miami record label, Noir Age; Brooklyn-based woodcut and letterpress maker Martin Mazorra; and organizers from the O Miami Poetry Festival. With alumni ranging from Radiator Comics in Miami Shores to Texas typographic artist David Wolske, the SPF trademark is an inspirational array of books, periodicals, artworks, posters and more expressing the beauty and power of tangible works even, and especially, as we’re awash in pixels.
“I’ve been seeing people of all ages wanting to get messy and feel something real in their hands,” SPF co-founder Ingrid Schindall said. “The more digital we get, the more we see people rebelling or needing a break from it or needing to bring that information back into the physical world.”
Small Press Fair began with artist and gallerist Sarah Michelle Rupert approaching printmaker and studio owner Schindall about a joint exhibition. Rupert is collections director at the Girls’ Club art gallery in Fort Lauderdale. Schindall is founder of IS Projects, a public access printmaking and book arts studio also in Fort Lauderdale. Their work in and around SPF is part of the city’s — and the region’s — growing and well-chronicled reputation as a creative arts scene not confined to the Miami-Dade County precincts of Wynwood and Art Basel.
Schindall embraced Rupert’s spark of an idea, and through 2021 they have produced six consecutive SPFs, each attended by hundreds of people, with no pandemic interruptions. The 2020 edition was a Webcast, and the bounce-back year of 2021 also saw a horde of new exhibitors. Schindall has a cheerily groan-inducing pun she tosses out about putting on more layers of SPF every year — a joke that either preceded or possibly originated with the giddy 2018 SPF event poster.
Either way, the fair is leaning into the suncoast theme and arranging booth space accordingly: Beach Front for presses and universities; Zine Dunes for smaller organizations and individual artists such as Vergez, whose imagery combines both technological and human elements in its contemplation of ever-changing modern identity.
The MAD Arts facility also contains two rooms that will be dedicated to a print exhibit the fair is curating and an auditorium for a planned SPF artist talk that is still in development. Organizers feel the move to MAD Arts (from FATVillage in Fort Lauderdale) will enable a more immersive and historically detailed experience, and it adds peace of mind. “Being able to lock everything up safely and having some volunteers from their company to run day-of logistics…[MAD] is making our dream of a two-day fair possible,” says Schindall.
The highlight of the fair is arguably The Steamroller: Organizers invite artists to create large-scale blocks, which can take months to prepare, and then hold a printing demo in which a steamroller driver lets ‘er rip — trundling over the paper laid atop the inked blocks to create mammoth prints on the spot. In addition to the fun spectacle, these sessions constitute a key part of the fair’s mission to show attendees how printmaking actually works. We’re going to go out on a limb and surmise that notwithstanding the fair’s move to a bigger and more enclosed space, Steamroller 2022 will still be an outdoor or at least open-air experience.
Small Press Fair runs noon-6pm Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 12 and 13 at MAD Arts in Dania Beach. spf-ftl.com
This article originally appeared in PureHoney Magazine. Check them out here.