Art cooperatives have a long, albeit disjointed history in Norman.
University towns attract creative people and contribute to an atmosphere ripe for imaginative cooperation. In recent years, downtown has been the incubator for some of these endeavors, including Anty Shanty, Dope Chapel and Resonator Institute.
Involved with a few of these has been Norman artist and creative instigator Eric Piper.
“Radical programmer” Piper has teamed up with fellow printmaker Jenna Bryan to launch Oscillator Press (OP), 315 E. Main St. Among OP’s stated goals is “energizing and connecting art worlds and the public.”
Financing the artist-run print shop will be custom screen printing and design services. Equipment and customer design files were acquired from Bigfoot Creative, which operated in the same space until recently.
“We were used to collaborating on events, and with a pre-design feature we can help artists get their designs on t-shirts,” Bryan said. “We anticipate doing more physical events in the future.”
Fine art printing on flat stock (paper) will be another of OP’s services.
Bryan was Bigfoot Creative’s shop manager for the past eight years. She grew up in southern California, and came to Oklahoma as a teenager.
“I was in charge of printing pretty much everything in the shop, as well as managing daily operations,” Bryan said. “I also have a background with Dope Chapel and Resonator doing a lot of art, programming and working with artists, which I plan to continue as well.”
Piper is an experienced freelance designer, excited to apply his skills in a small business setting.
“We have a long history of national and international touring, and can reach out to the people we’ve met,” Piper said. “There are cool networks of printmakers all over the world, and we can tap into that energy.”
The touring Piper refers to involves traveling workshops and resulting exhibitions by groups of artists who set up in various venues around the world for temporary bursts of creativity. The University of Oklahoma’s Drive By Press was one of these, along with Academia Non Grata.
“Some artists just need permission to get out there and do stuff,” Piper said. “Being a catalyst for the arts is important for making people want to work together and make stuff happen. When I was growing up, I wanted to be involved.”
OP will provide resources and agency for artists to experiment.
“It’s super important for people, and you can’t really quantify the effect art has on them,” Bryan said. “It brings people together and creates a culture of dialogue. It’s great to see the arts being facilitated here in Norman, which contributes to us being a cultural hub.”
Some folks need to be reminded that making art doesn’t just happen on either coast. Printmaking workshops and festivals are on OP’s future agenda.
“We have tentative plans to bring in artists such as Carlos Hernandez (Burning Bones Press) later this year,” Piper said.
“We also hope to be collaborating with Resonator on events such as even bigger projects, like an art camp when it’s safe to do those kinds of things,” Bryan said. “In the nearer future, we’ll be doing a virtual show featuring different video artists. We also look forward to getting back into the swing of Norman’s Art Walks.”
Piper and Bryan see OP programming as a natural progression from the other cooperatives they’ve been involved in for the last several years.
“Art has always been super important to us but it has also been important to figure out how you can make that sustainable,” Bryan said. “Art is work and it’s our business. This will be something that can help sustain us.”
One of OP’s first products is a locally-designed (#liljabby aka Jenna Bryan) “Norman OK” rainbow-emblazoned t-shirt. It’s available for shipping through OP’s website (oscillator-art.com) or for pickup at the store front.
“One of our missions is to make sure artists are compensated for their work,” Bryan said. “That’s something exciting we can do on a professional level.”
OP workshops start next month. Artists bring their designs; shirts and printing equipment will be provided.
“You’ll get to see the whole process of how a screen is put together,” Piper said. “We’ll also have a letter press set up, and hope to have some card workshops. Wood cutting and other disciplines we’ve learned will be taught in one or two-day weekend workshops.”