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Art and community with Bohemian Press: A brief history

A look inside the University’s nonprofit printmaking collective and the community it continues to build.
Image by David Stager
Bohemian Press President Josh (right) tests a screen-print while Minnesota Daily Reporter Sommer Wagen (second from left) interviews club attendees. Printmaking as a medium is good for community-building because of reproduction-centered processes.

Bohemian Press (“Bo Press”), the University of Minnesota’s nonprofit printmaking collective, held a screenprinting party for their meeting Thursday. 

Officers set up screens with some of the collective’s archived designs for attendees to print on scrap fabric or clothes they had brought. 

Co-presidents Josh Wojnar and Jobee Gust demonstrated the process, exchanging playful banter with each other and other attendees. 

Wojnar said with a smile he was still considering whether to print a Bo Press logo on his graduation stole. 

Rainbow Robbins, a regular Bo Press attendee, was delighted to see their design featuring a frog with a mushroom hat successfully burned onto a screen, ready to be printed. They said they were planning on making matching shirts for themself and their girlfriend.

“I found [Bo Press] on accident,” Robbins said. “I saw flyers, I just came to one of the meetings and just stayed part of the club.”

At the meeting, there were no bad ideas or negative consequences for mistakes or having no experience.

“[Bo Press] is open to anyone who’s interested in art and printmaking here at the U,” Gust said.

Neither Gust nor Wojnar themselves are fine arts majors. Students across majors are a part of Bo Press, from fine arts in printmaking to math. 

Both Gust and Wojnar agreed that prior printmaking experience can be helpful for Bo Press members but is by no means required. Bo Press centers its activities mostly around screen and relief printing, which are easier, more accessible processes.

“Most of the time for the print studio only people who are in a print class can use it, but by being in Bo Press you’re able to come in during meetings no matter what experience you have,” Wojnar said.

Established in 2006, Bo Press meetings are held in the Malcolm Myers Printmaking Studio in room W185 of the Regis Center for Art, occurring every Thursday at 4 p.m. Posters advertising various events throughout the collective’s nearly 20-year history add pops of color to the brown cinder block walls and the white cork boards attached to them.

Printmaking professor Jenny Schmid, who helped found Bo Press and has been the collective’s faculty advisor since its founding, said she got the name from Bohemian Flats Park along West River Parkway, which is viewable from the Washington Avenue Bridge.

“‘Bohemian’ has the double meaning of being a region in the Czech Republic, but also like ‘free and wild people,’” Schmid said. 

Bo Press stays busy throughout the year. In the fall, they do live screenprinting at WAM-O-RAMA and coordinate collaborative projects like their Halloween-themed “Hallow-Zine” and a screen-printed calendar. They put on sales in the Regis Center for Art East Lobby, attend events such as print conferences and host visiting artists in the print studio. 

“We packed up and had stuff kind of all ready for fall and then when it gets to spring we’re like, ‘Let’s take a breather. What do we do to keep interest and fun?’” Wojnar said.

Schmid said she has noticed a post-pandemic Bo Press renaissance — a student-led effort to keep things interesting, try new things and take the collective in new directions.

“It was really hard during COVID. We would be online, but it was just sad,” Schmid said. “It’s been great to see the students taking charge of [Bo Press] and just being super active and meeting so regularly and not needing me to motivate anyone.” 

Schmid said she has always wanted Bo Press to be student-run. As it stands now, Gust and Wojnar are co-presidents — whom she calls “royalty” — and there are five other leadership members, all of whom are juniors and seniors.

Gust and Wojnar went from newcomers to Bo Press co-presidents in two short years, an experience they called “tripping and falling” into the roles.

“It feels really weird,” Wojnar said as Gust giggled in agreement. 

Both Wojnar and Gust are graduating this semester, but even with their short term they aim to leave a lasting impact on Bo Press, namely through rewriting the collective’s constitution in order to create a safe space for others.

“We’re trying to get into our constitution that we can ask people who are being transphobic or racist, etc., to leave the club,” Gust said. 

She added the measure wasn’t supposed to be exclusionary but rather proactively protective of others.

Bo Press also hosted queer artist Brian Wagner in the fall and collaborated with the Queer Ecology Hanky Project in spring 2023.

Printmaking is a medium of multiples, meaning a process can create more than just one work. Wojnar said that creates a lot more opportunities for support, collaboration and community building — all things Bo Press is rooted in.

“What really got me excited to continue more with print is even outside of Bo Press it really is big on community,” Wojnar said. “Community is all around in different ways.”

The next Bo Press event will be a spring print sale in mid-April. You can follow them on Instagram for updates.

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