Photo: @beirutprintmakingstudio / Facebook

Print is not dead: Introducing the only open printmaking studio in Lebanon

Are you looking for a space to dip your own hands in printmaking and analog photography? Beirut Printmaking Studio provides just that: A space for local artists to practice their passions, from photography and printmaking to woodworking.

In an alleyway in Gemmayze lies a community of passionate artists who all share a love for print and photography. Upon visiting their modest studio, I was welcomed by Director Tarek Mourad, who introduced me to some of Beirut Printmaking Studio’s apprentices.

I sat in their garden and chatted with former scholarship holders, residents, and studio assistants. They showed me around the printmaking studio and the darkroom, as well as their exhibit—currently displaying the work of Gosha Beshleyan, one of the scholarship holders. The carefully-curated exhibit changes every three weeks to display the work of different artists at the studio.

Everyone in the space was either working on their art, catching up, looking at someone else’s work, or trying out the new techniques in print that they’ve been learning. 

The studio’s history

The community started in 2015 and grew organically. Some artists come and stay, while others give it a shot and feel like it’s not for them, but anyone and everyone is welcome. 

The studio was founded by Tarek Mourad, who turned his own space into a community for local artists. 

“I felt like there wasn’t a space for artists to work on their projects in Lebanon, so I opened up my studio for others to use by taking a monthly fee. We provide all the main equipment people need in the studio from chemicals in the dark rooms to advanced printers with ink,” he said. 

He wanted people to feel that producing their work and art is accessible. This self-service studio not only gives you your own space and equipment to work, but also provides different services such as courses, workshops, and even scholarships.

Mourad opened up his studio for anyone to use, and even provides funding for people to use it for free. There are certain rules and guidelines artists should follow to keep the community running smoothly: Everyone should respect the space they are in, the people providing the space, and the artwork that is put out.

Mourad believes there is a certain magic in everyone’s art that shouldn’t be kept secret, but shared for everyone to enjoy. This is where the studio plays a role in inspiring other artists through the works of one another. 

The only source of income for the studio is from the courses and workshops, so naturally, they are working with a very tight budget, but still manage to provide scholarship and residency programs to keep the community alive. The idea is that you give to give back, because every $450 raised can teach one student or resident at the studio.

On courses and community

The courses provided are equivalent to 3-credit courses where attendees learn different techniques, skills, and theories. You can find a syllabus of what the courses provide on the website with all the details of their outcomes. They provide courses of different levels, fields of expertise, and technical skills.

The scholarships they provide are mainly for eligible students who reach a certain standard in their art, maintain a specific GPA, and have a fluency in drawing. The program offers a one-year apprenticeship where the students learn everything about printmaking and will then produce commissioned  works to sustain the studio.

Similar to the scholarship programs, the residency programs are open for everyone except for university students with different conditions the apprentice is obliged to follow. A copy of the works of the scholarship holders and residents should remain at the studio for the benefit of it, otherwise it would be difficult to maintain the free programs. 

After thoroughly asking Mourad about the scholarship and residency programs, I asked if they provided any certificates at the end of it, and he stated that for him certificates don’t add value to someone, their skills do, but they eventually aim to become accredited to provide a standard in the printmaking community in Lebanon. 

The studio assistants do not get reimbursed with a salary at the end of the month, but have access to the studio for their personal use. 

“What keeps you coming here even if you don’t get paid to give those classes?” I asked them. Many told me the same thing: The community and Mourad keep them close to art and motivated to spread what they’ve been taught to generations to come. 

It’s amazing to experience first-hand printmaking like we never have before. This rare space is cherished by its community and well-maintained. They encourage anyone and everyone who has an interest in printmaking to give it a shot. 

You can check out all the dates for applications for both scholarship and residency on their website, alongside everything you need to know about their courses and workshops.