DIY Spaces of the Tugboat 37

March 29th, 2011 by Justin Kemerling
[caption id="attachment_4448" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Basement Studio | 20th & C, Lincoln, NE"][/caption] When the Tugboat Gallery reopened in April of 2008, I enthusiastically said yes to the invitation of doing the monthly exhibition posters. One 12x18 screenprinted poster a month, editions of 60ish, for three years. Designed and hand-pulled in three different DIY studio locations over the years and put up on the streets of downtown Lincoln by the Tugboat crew. Tugboat Gallery is an alternative gallery located in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. It's run by Peggy Gomez and Tugboat's new co-captain Nolan Tredway. Joey Lynch and Jake Gillespie, along with Peggy, made up the initial force behind its creation. Located above Gomez Art Supply in the Parrish Studios, it's part of a flourishing downtown art scene and a place to see some of the finest artwork in the Midwest. And the spaces where the posters were printed were equally as fine. [caption id="attachment_4492" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Print Here"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4449" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bemis Underground | Downtown, Omaha, NE"][/caption] The first studio, where screenprinting for me all began, was in the basement of a big old house on 20th and C in Lincoln's historic district. Amidst boxes and other junk stored by the various tenants—including one Jason Hardy—coating, exposing, blasting, pulling and hanging all went down in the evening hours after the graphic designer day job. I was way into posters at the time and Tugboat was the perfect project. The designing typically happened fast with the printing process taking up to 8-12 hours depending on number of colors and print complexity. There wasn't too much time to over think the design, and what happened was, for the most part, a satisfying result that kept my own design process moving forward and on its toes. While speaking to the art, the final design really just had to look badass. Once it did, it was time to print. I'd get the names of the artists (typically a group show), the name of the exhibition (occasionally Peggy or I would have to come up with one) and some images of the work being displayed, then I'd get to it. Design the poster, get approval from Peggy, and on to the screenprinting—transparencies, coating, exposing, blasting, printing, reclaiming. Repeat. It felt raw. Down and dirty. It smelled of ink and emulsion. It felt like wood and paper. And it looked delightful as the colors would layer over top of each other. Indeed, blue over yellow makes green. And magenta over turquoise looks fucking awesome. [caption id="attachment_4450" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Old Hardware Store | Vinton Street, Omaha, NE"][/caption] When my wife Katie and I moved to Omaha, Joey Lynch let me in on both of his spaces over the course of the next 2+ years. The first was in the Bemis Underground, the second in an old former hardware store in south Omaha. Generously shared spaces complete with power washer and drying rack. And lots more room to let the ink fly and the tape deck spin. The solid array of Jason's unrivaled mixtapes that accumulated over the years is quite impressive. What can I say, no one makes a mixtape like Jason Hardy. No one. All three spaces were as DIY as it gets—from the light tables, to the blast area, to the printing press. They were inspiring zones of "getting down to the making" and uncomplicated hideouts from the business side of graphic design. The first, since Jason and I both lived in apartments in the old house, was a place for collaboration, late night concepting and frequent beer drinking. The Omaha spots were home to the artwork and endeavors Joey was involved in. Inspiring to say the least, with huge artwork screens, print projects for Saddle Creek Records and the creation of the Daily Grub all happening around the printing of poster after poster. Looking back at the three-year collection of poster after poster, Three Way might be my favorite. Four colors, three arrows, two screens and one cow. Enough said. [caption id="attachment_4453" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Three Way | September 2008"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4535" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Stacks of Tugboats"][/caption] I've now moved on from being the "Tugboat Poster Designer." With evolving interests and new work opportunities, I'm focusing the screenprinting aspect of my design practice on personal projects and collaborative efforts. But, of course, the Tugboat 37 will always have a special place in my heart. As will the spaces where the shit went down. VIEW ALL 37 POSTERS -- Justin Kemerling, Designer. justinkemerling.com

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5 Responses to “DIY Spaces of the Tugboat 37”

  1. SBH Says:

    Excellent post, Justin. I’ve always loved your Tugboat posters and I have the first one you did – return of tugboat – framed in my house. It’s a personal favorite. I’d love to add that Dana Rose poster to my collection, too. :)

  2. Justin Kemerling Says:

    Many thanks Sarah! And you mean the Dana Rose poster for the show you guest curated??? Well, I think I might be able to help you out there.

  3. Sal Says:

    As usual, great writing again. Nice tribute.

  4. Patrick Says:

    Great reflection, Justin! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on all of this…

  5. peggy Says:

    You are a BAD ASS rock star. I miss our communications throughout the month.

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