In 1962, Los Angeles artists Connor Everts and Paul Darrow began discussing ways to improve the perception of printmaking as an art form. They decided that the best method to accomplish this goal would be to improve exhibition opportunities, educate the public, and popularize printmaking as an art form. They received support and encouragement from Ken Ross, of the newly formed Los Angeles Arts Commission, and Ebria Feinblatt of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They were joined by artists Leonard Edmondson, June Wayne, Ynez Johnston, Emerson Woelffer, Guy Maccoy, Dick Swift, Tom Fricano and others to form the Los Angeles Printmaking Society.
Within a year, by-laws were drawn up and LAPS was incorporated as a non-profit organization. The organization began with thirty invited members. In the early years LAPS was fortunate to have the support of a wonderful artist and patron, Esther Lewis, who generously donated studio and gallery space on the second and third floors at 818 Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. At that time LAPS was a small cooperative organization providing various services, including gallery and studio space to its members.
Over the years, the local LAPS group has expanded and now is an international society of well over 400 artist/printmakers from all across the USA, including members in Canada, Europe, Australia, South Korea and Egypt. New applicants are juried in every other year by distinguished jurors during the LAPS National exhibitions and by fellow members twice a year. LAPS members include artists, curators, educators and collectors. LAPS offers Associate, Student, and Patron memberships and encourages participation of all members in membership and exchange exhibitions, symposia and print related journalism.
In 1973 the first "LAPS National Print Exhibition" was held at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park. James Brown, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, juried it. One hundred and eleven works were selected from 800 entries. The Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at UCLA hosted the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth National exhibitions.
Since 1973, LAPS has sponsored a National Print Exhibition approximately every two years with the 20th National in 2009 returning to the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery once again. Unlike many other print exhibitions, LAPS includes recent work from the major presses that are so prominent in Los Angeles, encouraging a thorough dialogue of the contemporary print. Artists of international stature exhibit alongside local and national artists juried into the show. Many generous vendors, corporations, organizations and private collectors have been supporters of the National Exhibition, donating cash awards and purchase prizes.
Over the years, jurors have included Peter Frank, Archana Horsting, Ruth Weisberg, Kevin Salatino, Ed Ruscha, Nathan Oliveira, Ynez Johnston, Laddie John Dill, Henry Hopkins, Elizabeth Smith, Bruce Davis to name a few. In 1995, LAPS began organizing with a consortium of galleries in Los Angeles to exhibit prints and print related exhibitions in conjunction with the National Exhibition.
Besides the National, LAPS sponsors many member exhibitions and exchange shows. Exhibitions have been held not only in Los Angeles, but also in Ireland, South Korea, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway among the locations.
LAPS publishes a newsletter called Interleaf and a journal, Newsprint. The organization continues in its educational role by sponsoring symposia, student portfolio critiques, and offering low-cost student memberships.
From the initial conversation between two artists in 1962, the Los Angeles Printmaking Society has grown and enriched the art of printmaking and created an active community beyond its founder’s expectations.