In Arts & Entertainment

The work of Milwaukee artist Sue Lawton was among the inspirations for The Pitch Project's Artists' Book Fair.

Pitch Project fair celebrates the art of the book

Now more than ever – having reached a low point in the cycle of independent bookselling, in terms of the number of bookshops making important work available – The Pitch Project Artist Book Fair is an exciting development.

Co-organized by a pair of artists – Sonja Thomsen and Grant Gill – the fair coincides with Mariela Sancari's "Moisés/Landscape" photography exhibition and Sue Lawton's "Archetypes & Iterations" at The Pitch Project, 706 S. 5th St.

On Saturday, Feb. 4, the hive of artists – 20 studios are located in The Pitch Project, which also has a gallery – hosts the fair, with artists' books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals and 'zines from more than two dozen indie presses, artists, universities and collectives from 10 cities. The fair runs from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., with a keynote lecture by Sancari slated for 4-5 p.m.

"We try and organize one major program for every exhibition we host at TPP," says Thomsen. "At The Pitch Project, we have a lot going on at once. The complex brings in national and international artists to Milwaukee, an art/beer LOUNGE that features local artists, communal spaces that are used for events as rentals or internally for artists to host events, as all of this is attached to Brenner Brewing next door."

The brewery's Mike Brenner founded the project, says Thomsen, with a mission "for people to come for the beer and have an unexpected experience with art." Artists began moving into the building in late 2013 and, by the following spring, it launched its debut show.

"As of last summer, we moved our gallery and started the LOUNGE, which is a shared space with Brenner Brewing and features only local artists that Mike Brenner commissions to make his beer labels," says Thomsen. "With the new changes in the space and an opportunity to connect people to artists both locally and nationally, simultaneously, we thought that the Artist Book Fair could do just that."

When Thomsen discovered Sancari's work during a trip to Madrid, she became intrigued and wanted to bring the photographer to TPP.

"She and I are both members of an international collective titled Piece of Cake," she says. "I was immediately fascinated with her book – its form, the process of making it and the searching in vain that happens in the project.

"Because we were bringing Mariela into town we wanted to create an event that would also attract like minded artists and enthusiasts about artist books. The LOUNGE exhibition features Milwaukee's own Sue Lawton, a printmaker, storyteller and creator of amazing books."

Among the vendors are sellers from New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Grand Rapids, Richmond, Oakland, New Haven and, of course, Milwaukee. A complete list of vendors and where they are based can be found here.

"There are several photography-specific vendors at the fair that feature work being made on an international scale," says Thomsen. "The fair also has a focus on featuring the vibrant art community and presses here in Milwaukee. With the invitations to participate, Grant and I were interested in working with presses or collectives from other cities that either have roots in the Midwest, or have direct connections to Milwaukee.

"We want to facilitate an event for the Milwaukee book/zine/art community, creating connections to those that are just slightly out of arms reach. Hopefully the connections and conversations had during the event will bring together groups of people that may be unaware of each other."

The fair is free and open to all. Items are priced around $10 and up, and most vendors will accept credit cards. Brenner Brewing next door will offer $2 off pints of Star Baby IPA in honor of Lawton's exhibition. Lawton designed the beer's label.


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