Art is in the Fabric of Who We Are, an Interview with Mei Greene

December 16, 2020

Mei Greene, occasionally and more formally Meaghan, has worked together with some of her coworkers to start a scholarship fund for printmakers and printmaking students. Together, through their group Off-Reg, they hope to help encourage burgeoning printmakers by offering them financial assistance to pursue classes or purchase materials. How’d Mei get to this point? Well, funny you should ask…

Mei graduated from Montserrat in 2018 with a concentration in Interdisciplinary Arts.  That concentration allowed her to dip her fingers into a number of different artistic mediums including drawing, sculpture, and, yes, printmaking. Along with her BFA, Mei received the William & Ruth Fusco award, which allowed pursue new artistic opportunities as she moved from Beverly up to South Burlington, Vermont.

After a year-long residency at New City Galerie, Mei began working as the External Exhibitions Intern for Burlington City Arts while also working a second job. Her responsibilities with Burlington City Arts saw her working with the gallery’s external art efforts.

“Burlington City Arts has a program where they get local Vermont artists to show in UVM Medical Center or other places in the Greater Burlington Area. So I was helping a few days a week to hang and display art. Which was my professional gallery experience outside of Montserrat, cause I did work at the Bare Gallery for a couple years while I was there (and that was a great experience).”

While still stretched across her many responsibilities Mei applied for—and was accepted into—Vermont Artists Week at the Vermont Studio Center. Vermont Artists Week is a week-long residency and fellowship offered by the Studio Center specifically for Vermont-based artists. Still remembering it with a fond smile, it’s clear how important that was for her.

 “Being at the very legendary Vermont Studio Center with a bunch of Vermonters was very sweet. It was a really great experience to also see a lot of the local art community—especially the older art community. There are a lot of people who are making art in Vermont that don’t necessarily work in the realm of ‘fine art.’ I became friends with this 89-year-old woman who had been painting her whole life and this was her first opportunity to be with other artists. It was really amazing.”

Around the same time, Mei had also started a printing class at Iskra Print Collective.

“That class was also awesome because you have very talented master screen printers teaching UVM students, teaching older people, teaching people who went to art school, all in one. That sort of little community was really amazing. Being able to see a very prominent Burton designer also be able to get icky and messy was really nice.”

Building off of what she learned in the class and what she’d learned at Montserrat, Mei started a job as a pre- and post-production assistant at New Duds, a printmaking company in Colchester, Vermont.

“It’s the best thing that could have happened to me in my professional career-life.”

Increasingly, Mei felt stymied in her second job, one which laid outside the artistic paths she was pursuing.

“That previous job was so depressing only because I think, as artists, there’s something very important about making for us. It’s in between our bones; it’s in the fabric of who we are. To have that joy of making be exploited in a job can feel very bad. So to go to a place where all of my artistic skill and creativity could be accepted and understood by other people has been really awesome.”

And that’s where she’s working now, her responsibilities having now expanded into poster printing, print registration, and ink mixing.

Earlier this year, Mei and her coworker found themselves talking about the job while working in the darkroom.

“We print shirts for local breweries and sporting events and stuff. Why don’t we make shirts… for printmakers? Wouldn’t that be cool? I texted my boss, kind of as a joke, like ‘hey I have a business proposition for you. Let’s make funny shirts for screenprinters’. And he said ‘cool.’

“He made the email and the Instagram account that night, and my partner said ‘oh you should call it Off-Reg, like off-register.

“I didn’t think 2020 would bring building a new brand/business/thing but it did!”

So Off-Reg was born. The brand-business-thing is currently the undertaking of Mei, two coworkers from New Duds, and their boss.  

“Especially with the time of COVID being so insular, we wanted to reach out, to spread the joy of printmaking. We were inspired by collaborating with one another. It had been a while since any of us from our art school backgrounds had sat down and really talked about ideas. You know, silly ideas! Bad ideas! We want to connect with other artists.”

Along with work of the four founding members of the “Off-Reg Print Club” their current shop also includes the work of other New England printmakers, Brainstorm and Little Friends of Printmaking. Little Friends in particular was a get for them—no one at Off-Reg knew them personally, but Mei’s boss figured there’d be no harm in asking.

“I think that’s a very Montserrat attitude,” Mei said. “That kind of ‘just ask and see where it goes.’ I think Steve Immerman would always say ‘just say yes.’”

After their soft launch Off-Reg is excited to move forward, and especially excited to work with the talented, younger printmaking community that hasn’t yet had the chance to get their work recognized.

From the very start Off-Reg saw their scholarship fund as a central part of their mission.

“Our first meeting was kind of like ‘making shirts is fun and all, and really cool.’ But we really want to share this love that we have. I think, especially for me, there’s always been a teacher in me. Extending that love of printmaking to someone who might not be able to afford a class, be able to attend a $500 class could be groundbreaking. To have someone be able to experience that is really amazing.”

The scholarship fund for aspiring printmakers aims to open in 2021. In the mean time, Mei is thankful for the skills she gained at Montserrat that have put her on this path to make art and help other people do the same.

“Montserrat taught me to be very open and flexible and to solve problems creatively. And I think the smallness and the community, and trying to find and foster that community wherever you go in the world has also been huge. It might look like a couple of friends who knit, but you’re still making, you’re still creating.”

Mei said she found it difficult to make art on her own and felt that finding a community is important. “I stopped thinking about if I was making my former professors proud and thinking about ‘Is this making me happy?’ I think just making, no matter what it looks like, is very important.”

Whether she is worried about it or not, Mei should rest assured that the Montserrat community is very proud.

 

To follow Mei’s own work, follow her Instagram at @mei_greene

Click here to visit New Duds and Off-Reg.

You can keep up Off-Reg’s news by following their Instagram, @off_reg.