New Mexico’s First Risograph Studio Is Entirely Community-Driven

ALBUQUERQUE – With New Mexico’s rich history of printmaking, as well as an enduring culture of screen printing and design through the Chicanx social activism movements, it’s surprising there has never been a of publicly available risograph in the state, so far.

Risolana is a community risography studio located in the South Valley neighborhood of Albuquerque. Artist-organizers Michael Lorenzo López and Karl Orozco opened the studio in the summer of 2021, and they currently offer educational programs, artist residency, and printing services as part of their mission to “cultivate a space of artistic creation as accessible as the risograph itself. ”

Risolana founders Michael Lorenzo López (left) and Karl Orozco (right) in front of the Social Enterprise Center

Even though “risos” were originally intended to serve institutional printing needs, artists, writers, and organizers appreciated the risograph for its accessibility and technical offering to aid them in their quests for cultural transformation. Artists and freelance publishers have found printers to be useful tools for bookmaking and DIY engraving; artists with socially engaged practices, in particular, see the power of designing posters and zines to align their creative talents with activist movements.

Risolana reflects this reality in her vision statement: “We see the power in printmaking as a tool for community dialogue where personal and collective expression meet.” The risograph is also a powerful tool in the field of publishing. It prints fast (three times faster than a Xerox machine), but has the look and feel of screen printing – the finished product looks like a custom-made item.

Printed ephemeral prints, test prints and color keys printed in Risolana

The name Risolana is a portmanteau based on the word resolved, a colloquialism used in northern New Mexico villages meaning the sunny spot on a south-facing wall where people gather to relax and share stories. As López reflected on his understanding of the term, he noticed that Risolana’s goal was to cultivate the spirit of resolved, but not necessarily recreate it with nostalgia. “[Risolana] try to look for what ‘resolved‘ currently is,” he said.

Reflecting further on how the community is thriving now, Orozco and López agreed that Albuquerque is in the throes of the synchronic “run-in”; in the city, everyone knows everyone else, and Risolana supports this by creating an intentional space for people to come together and share news. And Orozco adds:[Risography] could be as affordable as you want it to be, which lends itself to a large network of people who can access it.

Karl Orozco (left) and Michael Lorenzo López (right) changing the ink drum on the risography machine

Maintaining this well of resources that Albuquerque creatives can continue to draw from is also important to López and Orozco. With all of the grant opportunities in the state of New Mexico, they often come with strict stipulations about what an artist can produce or how they do it. Risolana wants to combat this by removing some pressure and offering the possibility to experiment in the studio with the riso machine as a grounding tool.

At its core, Risolana is an arts enterprise, but the benefits of this space also extend beyond the arts community. The studio is housed within the Social Enterprise Center (SEC), a community-developed campus created by Partnership for Community Action (PCA). PCA’s mission is to invest in people as leaders in their community by engaging in a deep relationship with them to support a strong and healthy New Mexico. Associate Director Nichelle Gilbert describes the partnership as “a natural fit” given that the arts were at the forefront of the community’s mind when they were developing the SEC. Indeed, walking around the building feels like an instant part of a community, both because of the way people interact with each other and the way they welcome visitors into the space, like old friends coming to catch up. It is the ideal setting for a budding “resolana”.

One of the many things that Gilbert, López and Orozco all agree on is the power of Risolana to provide access to high value production. Not only does Risolana provide space for artists, but it also provides skill-sharing opportunities for other SEC partners, such as Southwest Creations Collaborative, a contract manufacturing social enterprise, or Educadores Para Los Niños del Futuro, a community of child care providers who participate in business creation workshops at the SEC.

Albu Crazy book by John Acosta amidst a cohort of zines and other material printed in Risolana

When I asked Gilbert what excited her most about the future with Risolana, she expressed optimism for their growth and deep appreciation for López and Orozco as organizers. “Michael and Karl’s energy, commitment and creativity are inspiring. I am thrilled to grow this initiative with these two and witness the barriers they will break down and the systems that will be changed with this approach,” she said.

Risolana is set to make a major impact in the South Valley with their intentional culture of community, expression and play. Recently they announced their first artist residency program which, for the summer 2022, will grant writer, illustrator and photographer Lena Kassicieh three months in the riso studio, a $1,000 stipend, a solo exhibition, as well as resources to lead a workshop and print an original. book. Through this and their other programs, Risolana hopes to encourage artists to take the time to develop their personal expression and remind them that their work is needed and cherished by their community.

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