Power of the Press Fest, a celebration of traditional printmaking, returns to Eastern Market

The third time’s the charm, as they say.

Stymied twice in their attempts to hold the second-ever Power of the Press Fest because of COVID-19, letterpress printing workshop and arts center Signal-Return looks forward to this Sunday, Oct. 10, when their celebration of traditional printing techniques and print artistry returns to Eastern Market.

More than 50 print artists from Detroit and beyond will gather in Shed 5 at Eastern Market for the second Power of the Press Fest, selling their artwork and offering demonstrations of all things print, including letterpress techniques, risograph, screen printing, wood engraving, and more. There will be music and a visit from the touring Quarantine Public Library, an internationally-renowned art project that offers free downloads of specially-created art books and more.

The festival is hosted by Signal-Return, the Eastern Market-based letterpress print shop and arts center. For Lynne Avadenka, director of Signal-Return, the Power of the Press Fest amplifies what they do at the shop, preserving the art of letterpress printing while providing a community resource.

“Most artists work alone and this is about building a community of artists,” Avadenka says. “Especially with this equipment, it can be hard to get your hands on.”

The whole idea of Signal-Return is the democratic multiple, she says, where artists can make images that can be copied and distributed. Over the course of 2020, from the civil unrest of that summer to the election in the fall, Signal-Return offered to print protest posters for free, the results of which ended up in the Library of Congress, universities, museums, and elsewhere. A current program invites artists to make and sell prints, with part of the proceeds going to the Detroit nonprofit of their choice.

While the inaugural Power of the Press Fest, which took place in 2017, had more than 80 artists, this year’s festival will host somewhere closer to 50, allowing people to spread out more due to COVID-19 safety precautions. The spirit remains the same, however, inviting the public to shop for affordable prints and see first-hand how they were made.

“This festival is special to Detroit but there’s a real resurgence in letterpress, and especially among young people working in graphic design who are getting tired of staring at computer screens,” Avadenka says. “There are similar fests across the U.S. but we wanted to bring something special like this to Detroit.”

The Power of the Press Fest, hosted by Signal-Return, is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shed 5 in Eastern Market. The festival is free to attend.

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.