Ian J. Welch

Ian J. Welch


June 22, 2017


Pegboard Press, Adrian College


Tell us more about some of your past projects? 

I’ve been an active member of the Toledo art scene for several years, serving on the Visual Arts Committee for Artomatic 419 in 2011, and then as the Visual Co-chair for Artomatic 419 in 2013. Concurrently, I was also a core member of Launch Pad Cooperative during 2012-2013, and also had a solo exhibition at LeSo Gallery in 2013. During this time of heavy involvement with the art scene in the city, I made the decision to attend graduate school at Northern Illinois University to pursue my MFA, but found myself coming back to Toledo often, and ended up co-curating a printmaking exhibition at LeSo featuring contemporary printmakers from all over the United States. I’m also a musician, having played guitar in multiple groups based in Toledo.

What current projects are you working on?

Currently my main focus has been establishing my printmaking studio, Pegboard Press, located on the second floor of Gathered Gallery and Studios. I had the amazing opportunity to purchase a vintage intaglio press from Bowling Green State University last summer, and I have been focused on restoring the press, getting the studio space set up, and making new work (mostly etchings and relief prints). I am also very fortunate to be employed at Adrian College, teaching courses in Drawing Foundations and Printmaking, along with teaching an upcoming workshop on hard-ground etching and aquatint printmaking techniques in collaboration with the Art Supply Depo on July 22nd, as well as renting out press time at Pegboard Press for individuals and small groups. Additionally, I am also curating an exhibition of young, contemporary Toledo-area artists (in conjunction with The Arts Commission) that will debut during the July Art Loop on July 20th.  

What advantages does being in Northwest Ohio/Toledo offer your efforts?

I hear this constantly, but the affordability and accessibility to creative ventures in the community here is wonderful. I could not have afforded to start Pegboard Press in a larger city without taking on more financial burdens than I already have. Being in a centrally located space, with affordable rent has allowed me to be able to keep my costs down, which has also enabled me to make the classes and workshops I teach more affordable to the public. It is gratifying to be in a community that is small enough that individual efforts can be felt, but large enough to sustain new programming.

Tell us about one of your greatest successes.

Probably all the various tasks that were involved with finishing my MFA- between grad reviews, hanging and installing the exhibition, and writing my thesis the process was incredibly exhausting, but forced me to really hone in on the essential elements of my studio practice and internalize what was important to me as an artist.

Tell us who or what gives you inspiration?

My previous artistic output was more grounded in non-traditional methods of drawing, and relating to vague ruminations on local landscapes. It was only when I moved away from home to grad school that I started to reflect on my role as a son and as an only child and what it meant to have that identity and sense of obligation evolve as I grew older. Since I returned home, we lost my father to a prolonged illness, and as I have been helping my mom sort through years of accumulation and family history, it’s been interesting to be increasing aware of my role in my family dynamic shift. I tend to listen to a lot of atmospheric/ambient music as I’m working in the studio, so certain lyrics or a sound/sample might make me pause and reflect on a memory or specific event. I have a great appreciation for the collaging elements of musicians like Jens Leckman, Blockhead and J Dilla and how they pull in disparate elements of different genres into a cohesive whole. I also browse art blogs and sites like Hyperallergic, Booooooom.com and Beautiful/Decay almost daily, looking at contemporary art and art practices that might inspire my own studio work or also provide examples and references to my students later down the line.  

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Toledo, OH, and was introduced to art by my parents at a very early age. I became involved in with doing theater when I was in middle school, and participated in Children’s Theatre Workshop at the Collingwood Arts Center through high school, which I think really helped me internalize a sense of community and collaboration that I have maintained in my studio practice to this day. I had always known I wanted to work as an artist in some capacity or another, but when I was encouraged to take a printmaking class at Owens Community College, I fell in love with the process. Later, when I was attending Bowling Green State University, I started teaching workshops and classes on the side and really started to feel a pull towards education and sharing my passion for art with other people.

Do you have a motto or favorite quote you try to live by?

“When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art… Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.” – Neil Gaiman.

Favorite place for local culture?

The obvious answer is the Toledo Museum of Art, but I also love the attitude and personality of the numerous local shops that have sprung up from the creative community around Toledo- some of the best conversations and impetuses of new projects have stemmed from meeting people through these local hubs.

Toledo’s “best kept secret” is . . . 

Gathered Gallery and Studios, and I’m not just saying that because I rent a studio there. The sense of community the team at Gathered has built since 2012 has been incredibly productive for my artistic practice, and the quality of work that comes out of the hot shop there rivals anything I’ve seen come from larger galleries in bigger communities. 

My favorite place to chill locally is . . .

The Attic on Adams or any of the open blues jams around the area. 

My favorite natural space in the Toledo area is . . . 

Sidecut Park or the Toledo Botanical Gardens.

When I’m not working hard, I can always be found at . . . 

When I’m not working, I’m usually still working. However, on the odd off day, I can be found in my studio or visiting Detroit with my girlfriend, trying to pet all the dogs ever.

If you could change anything about the current landscape for creative, progressive people . . .

I wish there were better opportunities for public access to the arts, and a greater understanding of what exactly the arts means to the public. All of the current discussions involving potential cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts and other arts programming really puts a knot in my stomach- one, because it means that the current administration does not understand what the arts have to offer, and secondly, the fact that these cuts are even a consideration means that some people in the general public do not understand WHO this funding benefits, and WHY it’s so important to maintain.

If I could change anything, it would be the . . .

The current higher education system in this country. As an adjunct instructor who genuinely loves teaching and dedicates a lot of time to his students, it is frustrating that new instructors (along with some veteran instructors) are expected to languish making little money with no benefits for years waiting for a full time position, often not making enough to even start paying back significant student loan debt and sometimes having to move around constantly chasing one year or fixed term appointments with little to no job security. I am grateful that I love teaching where I do, because otherwise I feel my passion would definitely wane sooner rather than later. 

Any exciting collaborations (past or present) you would like to tell us about?

I received an Accelerator Grant from The Arts Commission in May of 2017, and I am using the funds to kickstart a program called Pegboard Prints, where I bring local Toledo artists unfamiliar with the printmaking process to Pegboard Press, train them how to create an image and use the various equipment in the printshop, and then hand-print an edition of an etching, woodcut/relief print or monoprint at no cost to the artist. My hope is to have these artists rethink their studio process in an unfamiliar way, while still creating a viable piece of art that they can then sell multiples of. Hopefully through sales of the editions created by the artists both locally at art festivals and online, I can keep the program running long-term. 

Name one person (living or deceased) who you would love to collaborate with.

William Kentridge. 

Name a CD, book or website you can’t live without.

Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, simply because it was the first piece of work I made a real connection to- seeing someone write and illustrate a book like that made me first consider a career in the arts. I wanted to make things that made a connection with other people like that book did for me.

3 words that best describe me or my work are . . .

1. Nostalgic

2. Sincere
3. Process-driven 

Give us 5 Desert Island Album picks.

1. I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One- Yo La Tengo

2. Blue Train- John Coltrane

3. You’re Living All Over Me- Dinosaur Jr.

4. A Man and the Blues- Buddy Guy

5. The Low End Theory- A Tribe Called Quest

* If copies of Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age, Slanted Enchanted by Pavement, Innervisions by Stevie Wonder and Blockhead’s Music By Cavelight washed up on shore, I would not be disappointed either.

My biggest vice is . . .

Soda/ energy drinks, which I recently cut out and am quickly realizing how much I relied on. 

I’d like to see __________ in Toledo.

I would like to see a shift in public perception of what it means to make art in a community the size of Toledo. I wish there were more forums for discussion and critique, and I wish there was a little more actual art criticism happening in the city. I have a great respect for the “craft” community, but I want more exposure to challenging and conceptually driven work in the city. Someone selling jewelry does not have the same concerns and motivations as someone selling an equally as labor-intensive painting- and I feel that sometimes the public tries to approach both practices as the same thing, which is a dis-service to both communities. More exposure to more forms of art, and better education and visibility to the larger Toledo community would do wonders, and I am happy to see these steps starting to be undertaken in earnest. 

What’s the last dream you recall having?

I have a tendency to sleep very soundly- so I rarely remember my dreams. I can say that what details I do remember often involve mundane situations which are populated by people from my life that normally would have little to no interaction whatsoever.

The last lyric that moved me was . . .

If at first you don’t succeed/ You gotta recreate your misery/ ‘Cause we all know art is hard/ Young artists have got to starve/ Try and fail and try again/ The comforts of repetition/ Keep turning out those hits/ ‘Til it’s all the same old shit.- Cursive, Art is Hard

One movie character I identify with is . . .

I am going to cheat and use a television character- Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) from Parks and Recreation.

The best gift I’ve ever received was . . .

Honestly, the best gift I have ever received is the love and support of my family, friends and girlfriend. My parents always made sure I prioritized my art and education above all else (even telling me to stay enrolled in grad school when our family had a serious personal tragedy), my girlfriend has always supported me and tolerated late night calls after rough critiques in grad school (along with maintaining a long-distance relationship), and the many creative and talented friends I have in the community in Toledo have constantly pushed me to make better work and give back to the community as much as I possibly can.

My most inspiring moment was/is . . .

Probably the first time I pulled a proof (test print) of my first etching while I was at Owens Community College. Printmaking can be an equally satisfying and frustrating medium, and often requires an artist to constantly rework and reassess an image. Before I really delved into printmaking, my artwork was often frustratingly tight- to the point that I would obsess over the image to the point of non-completion. Embracing printmaking taught me to react and work through an image, instead of simply starting over. Printmaking also taught me to surrender a bit of control to the process, and realize that the medium can often help direct and feed into the content of the imagery.   

I want my last meal to be _______________.

A half rack of ribs and macaroni and cheese from Slow’s BBQ in Detroit, along with a couple of carne asada tacos from San Marcos- if it’s my last meal, I shouldn’t have to worry about a stomach ache!

Fin Ian on Instagram: @pegboardpress & @ianjwelch


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