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Charleston printmakers team up for ACLU fundraiser and RV art studio

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A print by local artist Anna Newell that will be featured at "Pressed for Change." Provided

Two local printmakers have teamed up to start an on-the-go art studio in a 1984 Winnebago RV. 

Leigh Sabisch is one of those printmakers. She's the former founder and organizer of the Charleston Zine Fest, an annual event that showcases a niche group of creatives during a market at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. She works at Artist & Craftsmen Supply, along with new business partner Allison Koch. 

Koch also works at the College of Charleston in the printmaking department. 

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Before the duo starts installing printmaking equipment in their recently purchased RV, they are hosting their first event under their new business name, Sardine Press.

It will be a fundraiser called "Pressed for Change" for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at Local 616, where they will be live-printmaking art from a variety of local artists. Attendees can purchase premade smaller prints at the free event for just $5 or pay $20 or $30 for larger prints that will be pressed on-site 4-9 p.m. Dec. 14.

Those prints will come with a written explanation of what the image means to the artist. The theme is "civil rights."

"There's so many hoity-toity fundraisers that make a lot of money and have a full-time staff, but we wanted this to be more accessible," Koch explains.

Sabisch discovered her love for hosting fundraisers when she first held an event at The Purple Buffalo last year in support of Planned Parenthood. Koch jumped in to help Sabisch plan and pull off the fundraiser, and the duo realized they worked well together. Sabisch says she's more of the "big picture" mindset, while Koch pays attention to the details. Both were needed to found Sardine Press. 

While the event will be at a local brick-and-mortar bar, the duo plans to create future work out of their RV, where they will have a printing press and teach printmaking classes. They also hope to rent out the space to other artists. 

"It's like we're trying to cram the entire world of printmaking into a tiny little RV," Sabisch explains the meaning behind the name. 

They will be able to perform relief printing on linoleum or wood, which involves carving out a negative space on the selected surface that will then create raised images in ink. They will also be able to create monoprints, which feature images that can only be made once, and collagraphs, which use a board with collage materials glued onto it to form a relief surface with a variety of textures.

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Prints by local artists Camela Guevara (left) and Jess Davison that will be featured at "Pressed for Change." Provided

While some of the techniques may initially sound complicated, even for seasoned artists of other mediums, Sabisch says she wants to make the art form as approachable and digestible as possible. She hopes teaching lessons in the RV will help make that a reality for those wanting to learn in Charleston — and beyond. (They are on wheels, after all.)

Koch remembers a similar model once took shape in Charleston when a group of local artists revamped a school bus and began hosting art classes out of it. 

"It was some of the people that started Redux," Koch says. "They kind of did the art-in-a-bus-type thing, but not printmaking." 

She's hoping this will be a successful venture in the same realm. 

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Local artist Camela Guevara will be participating in "Pressed for Change." File/Provided

Sabisch and Koch decided to team up with the ACLU for their December fundraiser because of the organization's tangible work that brings change. They specifically partnered with the organization's South Carolina branch. 

"The freedom to resist and express political beliefs through art and activism has been at the heart of the ACLU's mission for 100 years," shares Ali Titus, policy and communications director at the ACLU of South Carolina. 

"Bringing artists and community members together to celebrate the ongoing movement for civil rights and liberties through live printmaking is innovative and well-aligned with our mission and principles, especially those centering on freedom of speech and political expression."

The ACLU will have a booth at the event with members there explaining the organization's mission and specific-to-South Carolina goals for 2020, which according to Titus, include: mobilizing the public to address mass incarceration and poor prison conditions; ending the wealth-based justice system; blocking the six-week abortion ban bill and advancing reproductive justice; fighting back against religious refusals and other laws and practices targeting LGBTQ+ people; ending felon disenfranchisement; and recruiting civil rights voters for the 2020 election.

Gaulart & Maliclet French Café, known as Fast & French, will be at the event serving up the restaurant's classic "Le Hot Dog." This fancy frank is an all-beef broiled hot dog on a baguette with melted cheese, Dijon mustard and an assortment of eclectic toppings, including sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles. There will also be vegetarian options from the café menu.

"When we help the ACLU, we are helping many causes that are important to us, our diverse employees and our loyal customers," café owner Jennifer Bremer says. 

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

Kalyn Oyer is a Charleston native who covers arts and entertainment for The Post and Courier's Thursday edition, Charleston Scene. She used to write about music for the Charleston City Paper and Scene SC.