The RisoLAB is an educational print lab dedicated to empowering self-publishing and production of Risograph-based printed works, accessible to the entire SVA community. Nathan Fox, chair of the MFA Visual Narrative program, explains why he launched the Lab. “For a story-focused interdisciplinary visual storytelling program where the artist is author, understanding the printing process and project management is invaluable. Playing around with what print publishing and storytelling can do together is a crucial skill set and a critical thinking process to learn for any profession.”
As Mr. Fox notes, the Riso printing phenomenon is yet another case of artists transforming a technology intended for mundane use into a powerful tool for self-expression. He continues, “Risographs were originally created as automated low-cost, high- yield image duplicators for churches and schools. Recently, Risographs have enjoyed a resurgence through the visual storytelling community, with zines, comics, book arts and experiments in printed matter. It was this perfect opportunity to generate a new creative print community on campus, and a truly effective way to provide an accessible print-production education in a box.”
While the RisoLAB is available to the entire SVA community, as well as outside creatives from fields as diverse as fine art, graphic design, illustration, and even the worlds of poetry and literature, it has become a crucial physical hub that underpins the on-campus, summer semester of the MFA Visual Narrative program. All MFAVN students undergo rigorous training in Risograph printing in their first semester, after which they have unlimited access to the Risograph printing facilities, expanding their design and print skills.
Fox says, “As a low-residency program, many students are free- lancers or working professionals. All MFAVN students are encouraged to experiment and access the Lab for personal work production, gallery shows, testing publishing concepts, and pushing the capabilities of these amazing machines. Risographs pro- vide an immediate way to prototype and explore alternative print methods and publishing, which was a big draw for our students and SVA at large.”
RisoLAB Artists-in-Residence are selected through a competition each spring, and host public lectures and workshops, as well as donate output to the lab to sell for scholarship funds. Joan McCabe, director of operations of MFAVN says: “The work created by our Artists-in-Residence encourages stu- dents to push their own work further, expanding their professional practice and opportunities to collaborate with working professionals.” Fox always meant for the LAB to be interdisciplin- ary, which further benefits MFAVN students. McCabe says, “The RisoLAB offers Continuing Education and undergraduate courses, open access and workshops to all students and is a great way for the faculty, staff and all SVA students to cross-pollinate.” The RisoLAB mission is to become a hub of small scale and experimental printing and publishing activity that brings together artists of all backgrounds to encourage dialogue across different creative worlds. Accessing this resource has become an indispensable asset of the MFAVN program and student experience.