With appreciation to Barbara Tisserat, Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University and to the Southern Graphic Council Nomination Committee
Introduction for SGC Printmaker Emeritus Award, CommandPrint 2008
Southern Graphics Council
The inimitable and tireless Helen Frederick . . . To borrow a word from one of Helen’s titles, it’s a daunting task to attempt to briefly encapsulate the phenomenal achievements of this generous individual, remarkable artist, gifted educator, dynamic arts administrator, and passionate advocate for art and the power of the creative spirit.
A native of Pennsylvania, Helen had the good fortune to be introduced at a young age to art of the finest quality in the collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where, of course, she encountered the ideas of Duchamp. Her BFA and MFA degrees were earned at the Rhode Island School of Design. There she had the opportunity to work closely with Dieter Roth, whose open and experimental approach to printmaking and the art of the book reinforced her inclination to think about creative action in terms of unlimited options.
Collaboration has been an operating principal for Helen in all aspects of her professional life, and she has approached collaboration from every angle—she has been the artist benefitting from the skills of another to expand the media potential of her own work, she has been the expert dedicating technical knowledge to the realization of another artist’s work, she has been the facilitator bringing artists together to share information and ideas, she has been the community leader developing new opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to meet and talk in a stimulating environment.
In 1981, Helen founded the highly regarded Pyramid Atlantic, Center for Collaborative Projects in Printmaking, Hand Papermaking and the Art of the Book. Having moved several times over the course of its 27 year existence, Pyramid Atlantic is now located in a fantastic new facility in Silver Spring, Maryland, featuring a paper mill, print shop, letterpress studio, bindery and digital studios. As Executive Director of this non-profit center from 1981 through 2007, Helen’s vision and determination have been instrumental to Pyramid Atlantic’s success. Much more than just equipment and collected technical expertise, Pyramid Atlantic is a place for productive conversation and creative adventure. Under Helen’s direction, Pyramid Atlantic has
offered workshops for artists at all levels of experience
has produced and published numerous print and artist book editions
has hosted hundreds of artists in residence
has developed outreach programs for students and the community
has curated exhibitions regionally and throughout the world
Therefore, it is no surprise that Helen is a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence and Leadership in the Arts in Maryland.
Helen has also received numerous awards in recognition of the excellence of her own creative work, including a Fulbright, and grants from the NEA, Arts and Humanities of Montgomery County, and Mid-Atlantic Foundation.
Her work is major collections including
The Whitney Museum of American Art
The National Gallery of Art
The Library of Congress
The Fogg Museum
The Smithsonian Institution
As her current exhibition Following the Scent in the Fine Arts Building Gallery so beautifully demonstrates, Helen is an artist of breadth and substance, who through her work provides compelling commentary on important social and political issues. Although grounded in a comprehensive background of traditional approaches, and especially noted for her expertise in papermaking and the book arts, Helen has embraced the evolving technologies available to artists working in print media. Conceptually gritty and materially seductive, her work succeeds in capturing the velocity of the contemporary moment, while simultaneously prompting the viewer to slow down and pause for reflection. A haunting blend of reverence for the natural world and a cautionary call to remain alert to the consequences of a limited perspective, Helen’s work is thought provoking and visually rewarding. She has participated in over 100 exhibitions in museums and galleries, nationally and internationally, some of which are highlighted in your conference booklet.
Since 1996, Helen has been a Professor and Coordinator of Printmaking in the Department of Art and Visual Information Technology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where she directs Navigation Press. Her fortunate undergraduate and graduate students benefit from her astute critical insights, her enthusiasm for and encyclopedic knowledge of techniques and history, and her incredible ability to link people with opportunities. In fact, this generosity and concern for extending her hand to so many artists over the years in so many different ways is an abiding characteristic of her numerous achievements. Helen Frederick -- always eloquent, fully present, asking questions, believing in possibilities, igniting imaginations. It is a privilege to have her in our community and to honor her many contributions with the Southern Graphics Council Printmaker Emeritus Award.