Outcomes: Creative Fusion plants seeds of an ongoing artistic exchange

After a 2012 residency at Zygote Press, supported by the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion program, printmaker Iván Lecaros (Chile) returned to Cleveland in July to study nontoxic lithography techniques, and to discuss a residency and exchange between Zygote Press and Aguafuerte Taller, his print shop in Santiago, Chile.

Printmaker Iván Andrés Lecaros Correa first came to Cleveland—and specifically to Zygote Press—in 2012, as a Creative Fusion resident supported by the Cleveland Foundation. He returned in July with his colleague Sabrina Sofía Ávila Martin in a self-supported residency. Seeds planted by Creative Fusion seven years ago now are poised to flourish with support from other funders as a new and ongoing exchange between Zygote and Iván’s printmaking shop, Aguafuerte Taller, in Santiago, Chile.

The circumstances that brought Lecarosto Zygote the first time set the course for the ongoing relationship. Lecaros wanted to learn. Aguafuerte Taller was a small shop with just a couple of people working under his direction, but he felt that he lacked organizational skills. He says he started looking around for inspiration, and on Facebook found Zygote Press. He had a mutual friend with then-director Liz Maugans, who suggested that he apply to be a part of the Creative Fusion program. When his application was approved, the Facebook friends met in real life. Iván appreciated the feeling of community he found at Zygote Press, and took what he learned about managing a cooperative, community-oriented print shop back to Chile.

“Seven years later we have a shop [that] gathers artists from all over Chile, is able to reach artists who live as far as Punta Arenas, and can work with everyone who is interested,” Lecaros says. “It’s been great and rewarding for everyone.”

Lecaros says Cleveland “stole his heart” during his first visit. So when he was looking for a holiday in 2019, he decided to come back. “Zygote Press and the people I met were outstanding, and I keep great memories. So I planned to come and visit friends and just walk around.”

The relationship between Zygote and Aguafuerte Taller had already grown beyond the initial Creative Fusion residency. Several printmakers associated with Zygote had made trips to Chile to print there. And Zygote shop manager Rebekah Wilhelm, who had been instrumental in implementing nontoxic, “green” printmaking practices at Zygote Press, began on her own to develop a nontoxic process for stone lithography. Lecaros already had an interest in bringing nontoxic printmaking techniques to Aguafuerte Taller. “I make stone litho almost daily, and this looked promising and safer,” he said. So Wilhelm suggested he formalize his holiday as a residency.

While in Cleveland, Lecaros studied the green litho process with Wilhelm, while Sabrina Ávila studied with Cleveland printmakers Wendy Partridge and Eric Gulliver. Lecaros also visited several Cleveland art studios and destinations, including the Morgan Conservatory and 78th Street Studios on the third Friday in July. Now back in Chile, Lecaros intends to completely implement non-toxic processes at Aguafuerte Taller in the next two years. “I think it is necessary,” he says.

Even before that, Lecaros and Zygote Co-Director Stephanie Kluk anticipate that the two organizations will have established a new annual residency. “This new residency and possible exchange will be a part of Zygote’s international program, connected to our Global Arts Initiative. Supported by the Ohio Arts Council, the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the George Gund Foundation, and the Cyrus Eaton Foundation, Zygote’s Global Arts Initiative partners international artists with students at Thomas Jefferson Newcomers Academy,” says Kluk. The Global Arts Initiative will bring an artist from Chile in the spring, and from Taipei (another connection initiated through Creative Fusion) in the fall. Lecaros says Sabrina Ávila will be the first official Aguafuerte Taller Artist in Residence at Zygote Press, in February 2020. And if all goes to plan, Zygote will send an artist to Aguafuerte Taller in Chile in fall, 2020.

Meanwhile, Lecaros continues to make friends. He’s planning a residency at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory in the same year.