Tandem Press wants to get closer to Madison. So it knocked down a wall.

Tandem, an internationally recognized art press for printmaking founded in 1987, moved to new quarters on Madison’s East Side four years ago. The bright, chic, rehabbed industrial space at 1743 Commercial Ave. includes vast studios for Tandem’s master printers and guest artists, plus office space for its curators.

Now Tandem is ready to celebrate the opening of its newest feature: A 1,500-square-foot gallery that will showcase some of Tandem’s best work for the public.

The Tandem Press Apex Gallery was carved out of a former storage room that sat mostly vacant behind Tandem executive director Paula McCarthy Panczenko’s office. After the wall between the storage room and office came down, surfaces were finished off and lighting installed. The gallery is now hosting its inaugural show, with works by the famed sculptor and printmaker – and frequent Tandem Press visiting artist – Judy Pfaff.

An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and the public is invited. Which is the point: The Tandem Press Apex Gallery was created to better welcome in Madison to see the doings of Tandem Press.

“One of the things that we have always felt is that we are better known outside of Madison than in Madison,” Panczenko said.

“I think once you open up your space to the public, with openings and open hours, and people know it’s a trip that they can make, it’s a much more inviting way to build your audience.”

Part of the UW-Madison School of Education, Tandem Press is one of only four professional art presses in the U.S. affiliated with a university. Graduate students can work there alongside master printers and visiting guest artists.

Tandem regularly takes its artworks to prestigious shows such as the EXPO Chicago fair, the Print Fair in New York, and INK Miami in Florida.

“Most of the people who go to those fairs are art collectors, and are very familiar with what Tandem Press does,” Panczenko said.

“Now anybody who visits Tandem Press can come and see what we do. They have the possibility to go on tours of the studio, which is on the ground floor, and visit the gallery, which is now just off the main entrance.”

The gallery will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Though a gallery has been a longtime goal, Tandem’s previous home in a state office building on Dickinson Street did not afford the space. The move to the building on Commercial Avenue – built as a roundhouse for trains to turn around, Panczenko said – expanded the studio and office space to an initial 9,500 square feet. The gallery’s addition brings that up to 11,000 square feet.

Apex Property Management, which owns the building, donated the space for the gallery. Tandem Press advisory board members Paula and David Kraemer funded the renovation.

Tandem Press already holds an annual wine auction to raise funds for graduate student scholarships, and hosts an occasional Friday jazz night series in conjunction with the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music’s jazz program (the next jazz nights will be March 2, April 6 and May 4).

It draws on students from the university’s School of Business for help with accounting, marketing, branding and strategic planning. Tandem also wants to launch a series of weekend printmaking workshops that anyone can attend. Eight-five percent of Tandem’s budget comes from sales, grants and fundraising.

Panczenko hopes the new gallery will raise Tandem’s local visibility even more.

“We will do some group shows (in the gallery), but we are going to try to feature some of the artists who’ve worked with us over many years, to remind people of what we have done in the past,” she said. “Hopefully if an artist spends a couple of weeks here, we may be able to show work immediately.” There will be the chance to host MFA shows of outstanding graduate students in the print field, too.

“Tandem is really all about the students and education,” she said. “That is our mission, to involve students in all that we do.

“In the visual arts, you don’t often see an artist painting or an artist creating. What you do see is the end product,” she said. “Here at Tandem, we have the possibility for students to actually observe artists creating art, and all that goes into that. …I think the gallery will expose more people to what we’re doing, on many levels.”

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Gayle Worland is an arts and features reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.