Paperworkers Local is an Alabama Bright Light shining through art

Paperworkers Local is an Alabama Bright Light shining through art
The artists at Paperworkers Local in Birmingham work with a wide variety of styles and subjects. (Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

I like paper just like any other guy.

However, there is a group of folks in Birmingham who really, really love paper. They draw, paint, design and perform many chemical processes that convert paper into pieces of art.

Welcome to the nonprofit for artists, Paperworkers Local, where paper is king.

“We started five years ago with a group of printmakers on Facebook. We needed a cooperative place where we could share resources and ideas,” founder Mimi Boston said. “So we began this wonderful place. Here, we support each other and learn from one another.”

The group is varied in age (20-80) and in specialty. Processes and styles include carborundum collagraphy, solarplate etching, copper plate etching, moku hanga (Japanese wood-block printmaking), mono-printing, drypoint on copper, cyanotype printing, linocut printmaking, collagraph printing and tintype photography.

“Our mission is to provide both work and gallery space for artists in Birmingham — primarily for those who work on paper. We have members who paint as well, and several photographers who make prints,” Boston said.

Paperworkers Local helps Birmingham artists realize their visions from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Paperworkers Local offers a variety of classes coming up this spring, including fabric printing, stitching on prints, solarplate printing and a linoleum block class.

One of the founding members is Tenisha Hicks, a young artist who loves the cameraderie and collaboration of Paperworkers Local.

“Paperworkers Local is more of an artist community. The art scene here can sometimes feel a little bit separated, so this is a nice place to call home for artists looking for that community,” Hicks said.

Members of Paperworkers Local pay a small monthly fee, and in return enjoy gallery and workspace, equipment use and support of other artists. They are open to new members.

For Boston, being a part of Paperworkers Local has been more than a place for art.

“Being here at Paperworkers Local, seeing the work on the walls and knowing what we’ve provided for these artists gives me a wonderful feeling,” she said. “I enjoy the companionship of the other artists and I value their opinions. I feel my work has really progressed in the past four or five years and that’s partly because of the comments, trading ideas, learning from others, and knowing this is a very supportive place.”

On exhibit at Paperworkers Local is the work of artist Jasmine Williams, winner of the nonprofit’s 2017 juried exhibition. Her artist statement stopped me in my tracks. If you are motivated by social injustice in this country, I recommend stopping by the gallery at Paperworkers Local. Here is a section of her statement:

As a black woman in America, I am constantly presented with false images of what I am and what I should be. Though I have read books, sorted through feelings and changed my mind time and time again, I am still left feeling weaponless in the fight against social injustice. At my weakest, I want to give up, thinking there is no end to this cycle, and live a life oblivious to the things happening around me. I am in a constant struggle between wanting to make grand social statements and wanting to just be,” Williams wrote.

For Hicks, being exposed to work like Williams’, as well as that of the community of artists at Paperworkers Local, has propelled her art to new heights. She spoke of the support she receives from fellow artists.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Paperworkers Local. It’s been great to see myself grow as an artist. The other members give me the confidence to challenge myself. Being able to learn from each other and the sense of community is wonderful,” Hicks said.

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Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].

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