Careful curation can influence interpretation. Most people would apply this concept to an art gallery with paintings and sculptures. But when the art exists inside a book, what then? A new independent bookseller that doubles as a publishing house seeks to answer this call. Midwestern Press will open the doors to its Main Street storefront on Thursday (Nov. 1) and promises a slew of events, classes and an exclusive inventory of books — each carefully and thoughtfully arranged by three dedicated owners: Thomas Wagster, Ryan Khosla and Blake Lipper.
“When you put something next to something else, you create a context between those two things,” Wagster says. “I think, as artists, there’s always this attention to putting things next to each other, taking something from this spot in the world and equalizing it next to something else that you may not associate immediately to create an interesting dialogue.”
After graduating from the Art Academy of Cincinnati — Lipper majored in painting, Wagster in drawing and Khosla in Sculpture — the trio felt Cincinnati lacked an outlet for contemporary poetry and art to be created and showcased. They worked to fuse this gap via a physical space to print and publish books. That first came in the form of a location in Mount Healthy, which opened in September. About a month later, they wanted a more central location, so they went to Over-the-Rhine.
A new mission was established with the move to Main Street: along with hosting poetry readings and making books, MWP added poetry workshops and classes to their operation.
“We want to elevate the writing community in a different light,” Lipper says. “And start integrating the actual process of creating poetry with lecture series or classes. We want to inject life into the things that are happening and be more integral to the community.”
Their efforts gained the attention of Gary Walton, director and founder of the Cincinnati Type and Print Museum. He donated equipment, including a letterpress, which brought MWP closer to their goal of in-house publishing.
Khosla noted the donation as a sign of limitless opportunity when it comes to sculpting a book, a process he describes as: “Just being weird, engaging with ideas and materials that maybe you wouldn’t expect and approaching things in a new way with a different perspective.”
In the store itself, a wall of theory, graffiti and poetry books act as the focal point. Along with alternative magazines, DIY zines and chapbooks, MWP stages these creations in a way that enhances their meaning, and emphasizes that they are live entities that flow in unity and, at times, in conflict.
Visitors should take time to thumb the thousands of pages and embossed covers.
One might first notice the silver glare of Also Known As, a 12ozProphet production, or The Contemporary Condition by Knut Ebeling. The blue and white pattern on the cover of Tomaž Šalamun’s Poker creates movement that may seem awkwardly inviting while the literal head-turning arrangement of words on Cold Mountain Mirror Displacement by Jeremy Hoevenaar draw the eye closer.
“We don’t want to push a social agenda,” Lipper says. “It’s more about the human condition and about the ideas that are being expressed in today’s world.”
The art MWP produces and displays is always reflective of the world around it by providing tools for each individual to decode their own reality. This concept is complemented by MWP’s first publication, a chapbook of poetry titled Statelessness by Wagster.
Though the end product is refined, the team described the making of Statelessness as trial and error, as they worked through the kinks of publishing. The only outsourced task was the actual printing; an undertaking that will be doable in smaller batches in their private studio as early as December.
The latest project, a book of poetry called Ordinary Dissonance by Brett Price — local poet and Art Academy of Cincinnati adjunct instructor — is set for a mid-November release. As noted on their website, they promise to accept and review all submissions and are always open to new ideas.
“I want people to truly understand that we are genuinely here to nurture and sustain a culture that we think is important, that we often feel like gets overlooked or is not elevated to its respective place of what it deserves,” Wagster says. “It’s just as much for us as it is for everyone around us.”
Midwestern Press is located at 1411 Main St, Over-the-Rhine. More info: midwesternpress.com.