Highpoint Center for Printmaking Gives the Community Access to a Beautiful Art Form

Among the many treasures of Minneapolis’ Lake Street is a white building adorned with the letters HP. No, it’s not Harry Potter’s residence, but beyond its doors the Minneapolis community will still find work of a wizardly sort. HP stands for Highpoint Center for Printmaking, an artist co-op, gallery and school offering a space for printmakers to practice their art. By simply walking past its large windows, passersby can catch a glimpse of what makes Highpoint important to the community. Sunlight slips through the glass and lights up the open space. The walls are lined with prints—in vivid pinks, reds and shades of blue that rival the sky. Others are sharp and crisp in black and white, and the scenes depicted range from abstract to lifelike to surreal.
Printmaking is the process of creating an image on a hard surface (wood, copper, stone), inking that surface and pressing it onto paper or running it through a press to create a print. Many prints involve a process of layering to create their intricate designs, landscapes or portraits.

Founded in 2001 by Cole Rogers and Carla McGrath, Highpoint is the only printmaking center of its kind in Minnesota. The duo met while teaching a class and connected through their love of art. “Highpoint came out of conversations about what we felt was missing from the art community,” says McGrath. At the time, Rogers was in charge of the printmaking department at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and he was becoming frustrated with the lack of printmaking resources in the community. “I was working with students that I was encouraging to love [printmaking],” he says.  “But when they graduated they didn’t have a way to continue doing that. There weren’t facilities—all of these people studying printmaking with nowhere to go.” But Rogers wasn’t quite ready to take the leap and start his own shop—until he met McGrath.  

For the 17 years since Rogers and McGrath decided to take that leap of faith, Highpoint has offered a space for artists to create magic—etching, sketching and mixing colors to create their beautiful scenes. “Printmaking is about making multiple originals,” says McGrath, adding since its beginning, the art form has made art more accessible to the community, offering lower prices for the stunning works created.
Highpoint is also a space for learning. The center partners with Twin Cities area schools to offer free printmaking classes to students. The AP program offers free instruction to teens—with five budding artists accepted in the fall and five in the spring. “They commit to being here two afternoons a week and receive about 90 hours of instruction,” says McGrath. “Often, they use the work they make here to put in their portfolios to apply for college.”

McGrath describes the artist co-op portion of Highpoint as a “gym membership for artists.” Printmakers pay a flat fee each month in order to use the space. The doors are open to these artists from 9 a.m. until midnight, and many artists work into the wee hours of the night. Sally Gordon, a printmaker, co-op member and St. Louis Park resident who practices the art form of lithography, is quick to tout the importance of Highpoint. “It’s unique in that it’s unique,” she says. “There’s nothing else like it.” Gordon became bewitched by printmaking in college. “When I was in college in the early ’70s, I took my first printmaking class,” she says. “I took lithography, and I just loved it.”

Lithography is the process of drawing on stones or metal plates with a variety of greasy crayons and then chemically treating the surface to fix the grease to the stone. The stone is sponged with water and then inked. It would be impossible for Gordon to create her works of art without the resources at Highpoint. “There’s just too much equipment required,” she says. A recent piece of Gordon’s is a self-portrait titled Consulting the Oracle in which Gordon stares into her smartphone, her focused expression lit by the eerie, unnatural light of the screen. Gordon has been referred to as “the human xerox machine,” and she wears this title with pride, thankful for the opportunity to practice this art form she loves so dearly.  
Two times each year, the walls at Highpoint spring to life with the new work of its co-op artists. Every artist has the chance to share their work in the gallery shows which are always open to the community. The artists choose their own pieces to hang, and McGrath highlights the originality in all of these pieces. Occasionally she notices accidental themes among the works. “There’s an ongoing interest in nature,” she says. “Sometimes I look at a show, and there are birds in half of [the prints].” The community can come to view the work during these gallery shows and maybe even find inspiration to take a class themselves. Highpoint offers classes for kids as young as third grade up to adults of any age.
Artistic director and Master printer Rogers and executive director McGrath complement each other nicely to create the harmonized space. McGrath uses her law and English degrees to write grants and work with the funders helping keep Highpoint alive as a nonprofit. “That’s my creative outlet,” she says. McGrath also uses her background in education to create the classes. Rogers is the center’s master printer, working with artists from Korea to Africa to all over the U.S. to create duplicates of their work and make their art more accessible.

From professional artists to experimenting co-op members to a student creating their first print, “It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at,” says Rogers. “It’s kind of the range of experiences that I think is the most important.”

Highpoint Center for Printmaking
912 W. Lake St., Mpls. // 612.871.1326
Open to the public Monday-Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday noon–4 p.m., closed Sundays.

Visit highpointprintmaking.org to view class schedules.