MICHAEL ROBERTS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE FINE ARTS WORK CENTER, PROVINCETOWN
The Fine Arts Work Center campus was buzzing with emerging writers and artists learning from former Fellows on a glorious summer afternoon in Province- town when Artscope’s Laura Shabott cornered Michael Roberts, a very gracious, committed and charismatic man who is perfectly suited to his leadership role at this vitally important arts institution.
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THIS YEAR’S AUCTION (THAT TOOK PLACE ON AUGUST 15).
Michael Roberts: It was our 39th and most successful so far; the largest in proceeds to the organization, and a wonderful occasion. Our featured artist was the great painter and print- maker Michael Mazur, a crucial figure for the Work Center from the late 1980s until his death in 2009. In addition to auctioning two of his prints, we were also able to present a solo show of a wide variety of his work in the Hudson D. Walker Gallery.
The auction theme was “The Year of the Print.” Mazur is well known for his prints, and in this medium, he had a profound impact on the Work Center. 2015 marks 25 years since the inception of Mazur’s New Provincetown Print project. This kind of residency where important artists came for two weeks to learn printmaking from a master was a novelty at the time. But printmaking has been in our organizational DNA from the beginning. One of our founders, Robert Motherwell, in addition to being one of the most influential American painters of the mid-century, was deeply committed to printmaking. He was also a passionate reader and enthusiast for the literary arts. His friendship with poet Stanley Kunitz provided an initial impulse for the Fine Arts Work Center as a place for both the literary and visual arts. So the conjunction in 2015 of Motherwell’s centennial with the 25th anniversary of the Print Project was a happy accident.
HOW DID THE PRINT PROJECT WORK?
Each year, four artists of stature were invited to come to Provincetown for two weeks to work alongside Mazur and master printmaker Robert Townsend. Each artist produced a body of monoprints, one-of-a-kind prints often combined with mixed media and after-press handwork. In exchange for the residency, the artists donated several prints that were combined each year into portfolios offered for sale to collectors and institutions. At this year’s auction, participating artist Richard Baker talked about what a thrill it was to work with these men and learn about print- making from the beginning.
After the Project ended in 1994, Mazur went on to develop a state-of-the-art print studio at the Work Center that remains one of the best in the region. Here, artists continue to explore the print medium, and every year some 30 local artists work with the Work Center’s visual committee chair, artist Bert Yarborough, to create monoprints for sale in the auction.