Ghost Project: Zz School

We are very pleased to present the Zz School‘s Peepshow, an exhibition/celebration of their Library and Letterpress shop grand opening. We have been following the Zz School for some time, an exciting experimental pedagogical project in Kansas City. There are many noteworthy free school projects happening around the country, and like the best of them Zz school spend their energy doing stuff rather than publicizing their intentions, we hope this post might bring some more notoriety on their work. This post was authored by Zz School and the contributing artists are noted at the end.


Zz School Peep Show & The Zz School Library and Letterpress Shop Grand Opening, October 30, 2015

First a little background, The Zz School of Print Media (pronounced ‘zee’) is a printmaking focused education initiative based in Kansas City, Mo.  We aim to promote print-based public art, encourage exchange between artists and the community, to create opportunities for artists and educators, and to expand the role of printmaking in the visual arts.  In addition to technical services and equipment access, Zz School rounds out artist opportunity with community based projects and conceptual courses. We aim to enable artists diversely, creating opportunities for artists to grow the content of their work in tandem with technical ability.

Beginning November 2015, Zz School will open in two locations.  Our screen print courses are taught out of a commercial shop, Oddities Prints, at 602 E. 31st Street and our new letterpress shop is located at Vacant Farm found at 3333 Roanoke Road.  Having square footage to call our own at Vacant Farm is giving us a place to design and build a teaching print studio that fits the needs of our members.  It is a substantial change and we are excited for the future.

In addition to the letterpress shop at Vacant Farm we have now opened The Zz School Library. Our library will support the mission of Zz School by providing opportunities for artists to develop their skill, craft, imagination, creativity, and spirit, through a diverse collection of information, images, and physical objects.


Some writing about the library by our Head Librarian, Asa Wilder:

There is something haunting about a book that has not been opened in years, decades even. Much like a vacant house, abandoned and neglected, the book begs us to peek inside. When we finally creak open the dusty front cover, we wake a dormant world, a world that has been stewing, waiting for us at just this moment. Sometimes we are greeted with handwritten birthday wishes from an anonymous “Grandma”. Sometimes we find a grid stamped with each date a new person took this book home with them. Often we find simply letters arranged on paper. We flip through the pages with an uneasy curiosity, as if peering down a darkened cobwebbed hallway. Sometimes we find ghosts. 



The Zz School library is a collection of ghosts in book form. It consists almost entirely of books that have spent years on other shelves, untouched and shut. Most of the books were recently removed from other libraries’ collections, headed for large library book sales, and if unsold, the shredder. Now, they are given another shadow-life with Zz School.



With the library’s own printed material, we have attempted to highlight those physical and spacial qualities that are lost through digitization. Our risograph printed library card must be viewed under pure red light to be deciphered. The signatures on the back can only be seen in the presence of a black light. Each book contains an index card sleeve letterpress printed with the library logo. The due date card is anamorphic, viewed properly only when positioned in front a reflective cylinder.


Due to wear and tear, outdated and antiquated information, or simply lack of public interest, most large libraries weed thousands of volumes from their collection every year. And as the demand and need for Internet access increases, public libraries are wise to divert much of their space and resources to meet these needs. Some of the books simply must go. The paper used for Windows 95 for Dummies could likely be put to better use. There is nothing keeping the spirit of that book in this world. But there are books that don’t go so easy. 



The Zz School library attempts to collect and reanimate those books that cling tight to this world, that refuse to rest in peace. They are found not only in library discard piles, but in all the common book graveyards: suburban thrift shops, Goodwill outlet stores, used bookstore clearance sections, garage sales and flea markets.


As the Internet makes information increasingly easier to reproduce, the usefulness of printed media becomes less clear. But as anyone who has picked up a kindle knows, there is more to a book than information. And there is more to an object than its usefulness. There is also the feeling you get when you flip through its pages for the first time. There is the smell of decaying paper, the joy and frustration of other people’s marginalia, the coffee stains and chocolate fingerprints. There is a real tangible material history that lives with every book. Unlike pixels arranged on a screen, a page in a book does not cease to exist when it is turned. When a book becomes digitized it is freed from many of the physical limitations of space. But the convenience and usefulness of instantaneous, universal sharing of information brings with it the sacrifice of all those useless and unquantifiable little things that stem from its individual physicality. And what makes an old book so truly ghostly is that unlike say, a seashell, a book also expresses thought, human ideas, symbols and images. It is a message from a real human or group of humans, congealed into a single repeatable physical object. The library’s goal is to explore this intersection of the particularity of an object with the thought and emotion it conveys through print.


On Friday, we issued 32 cards, and as the Zz School semester progresses, the library will begin the task of creating a new classification system and a complete catalog. It is our hope that Zz School students will benefit personally and artistically through their interaction with the library. Like a parasite feasting on the unwanted waste of a larger organism, the Zz School library gives new life to the discarded print media of the past.  The ghosts have made themselves known to us. The question now is whether we will let them back into this world, or run to our computers in fright.



Fall 2015 Contributing Artists:
Jordan Carr, Flannery Cashill, Kendell Harbin, Rachel Mesplay Helm, Clare Odegard, Lisa Jacobs-Haberstroh, Pat Egger, Calvert Guthrie, Miranda Poe, Asa Wilder, and all photos by Libby Zanders.


The Zz School Octagonal School House:

Also included are several photographs of the one-room octagonal schoolhouse sculpture built by the Zz School Founder and Director, Erin Zona for the Peep Show event on October 30. The sculpture is meant to represent the spirit of Zz School.  Constructed entirely from lumber, white cardboard, and some electrical components, the schoolhouse is meant to be an architectural apparition, a physical manifestation of the artist’s idealism, personal nostalgia, faith in community, and a desire to build optimism and opportunities for artists in the changing landscape of her city.





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