Print Lives! Or Does It!?

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I was saddened to receive the following from Tod Lippy, founder, editor and designer of Esopus, his extraordinary “experimental” arts and culture journal.

“. . . I’ve made the difficult decision to suspend publication of the annual issue of Esopus for the time being and to focus instead on strengthening and expanding our crucial nonprofit mission.”

Lippy has produced 25 issues of Esopus since 2003. One of his goals with the publication was “to take that medium, which, at the time, seemed to be teetering on the brink of irrelevance, and give it new life by inviting a wide range of creative people to push it to, and sometimes beyond, its boundaries. The other goal was to offer this unbridled creative expression to as broad an audience as possible, with no advertising and minimal editorial framing.”

To facilitate all of this, Lippy created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization: The Esopus Foundation Ltd. He has received grants from a number of private foundations and public agencies as well as tax-deductible donations from more than 400 generous individuals, bridging the gap between annual expenses and revenue. The expenses associated with producing a complex printed object are hefty, and revenue has always been limited in light of our commitment to eschewing all advertising while still offering the magazine at a considerably subsidized price point. Making the formula work has always been a balancing act, but in the past several years it’s become much more difficult.

Over the next year, “one of our main goals will be to donate the majority of our available back issues to libraries around the United States.” The Foundation will continue to curate exhibitions and program a wide range of events, as well.

“Most importantly, we are not abandoning the print medium!,” he writes. I”n fact, our next print publication is Esopus Drawings, our Fall 2018 limited-edition artwork for Premium subscribers, which is a facsimile “sketchbook” featuring 25 drawings of mine that are related to the past 15 years of Esopus. (This is also available for sale here.) We will also continue to engage with print via a series of books and limited editions that the Esopus Foundation will start producing in 2019.”

I am proud to say, that I was on the Esopus board of advisors and contributed one feature, a collection of rejection letters from the 1930s sent to a female home economics graduate looking for work in the restaurant and hotel fields. It was a sad legacy and even sadder that she retained the letters and they were sold at a flea market. Esopus printed them a perfect facsimiles. Below my contribution to Esopus.

Wherever Esopus lands in the digital future, it has made a mark in the print past. Thank you Todd.


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →