For over 55 years, the mission of the Tamarind Institute at the University of New Mexico has been training artists in lithography, the 18th century art of printmaking with ink, stone blocks, and creativity.
While much of modern lithography is done with aluminum plate and polymer paint, Tamarind has remained dedicated to teaching artists traditional printmaking, using stone slabs and oil-based drawing materials to create unique pieces of art. And Meghan Ferguson, Tamarind’s Gallery Director, is part of the team promoting the work of current artists, and inspiring a new generation of lithographers.
“We work with old stones, it’s a laborious, very time consuming process that takes an extreme amount of patience. Where some people might want to hit “print” on an actual printer, we’ll spend four days achieving something that has a special, hand-made quality to it. It’s special because we are continuing a tradition that otherwise might not be in existence if there weren’t people fighting to have this art form.
“I feel very passionate and connected to Tamarind because I have this close experience with printmaking, and I want to share it too. You don’t get that experience in many places, Tamarind is a very special place.”
A musician herself, Ferguson has been encouraged to by the camaraderie of Albuquerque’s art community to expand Tamarind’s impact. She was surprised with the amount of collaboration and encouragement that she encountered when she arrived at the Tamarind Institute after curating galleries in Santa Fe.
“I think Albuquerque is a beautiful place for collaboration. You’re seeing a lot of institutions pair up with each other. We’re starting to share our Tamarind artists a little bit more, wanting to collaborate on events and talks and lectures with other institutions. And that’s a great thing for Albuquerque. We may not be the most successful place commercially for art, but Albuquerque is an amazing place for making art.
“There’s always room for experimentation here. And so many people have talents that they are willing to contribute to projects and come together and create really wonderful events and things that would not exist without that collaborative spirit. That’s another thing that I enjoy working at Tamarind. It’s so much fun to work with a bunch of artists and make something that one artist alone would never envision.”
Ferguson credits Albuquerque’s vibrant music scene, a recent push by the city and state to attract the film industry to the area, and the University of New Mexico’s art community with creating a rare hub of artistic creativity.
“There’s great work coming out of the College of Fine Arts, and that kind of feeds into the community when people stick around. You do have students who head to New York or Los Angeles right after they graduate, but I think a lot of people want to establish their roots here, and their studio practice here because it is such an easy going, great quality of life place to live without breaking the bank.”