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IN 1972 BOYD SAUNDERS, from the University of South Carolina, invited every printmaker he knew in the South to meet at the annual convention of the Southeastern College Art Conference with the intention of forming a printmaker’s organization. (At that time, college and university printmaking programs tended to be small, isolated, and neglected.) The group that assembled in New Orleans for that meeting included Bernie Solomon, John O’Neil and Boyd Saunders. They wrote and approved by-laws and in 1973 the Southeastern Graphics Council was officially chartered by the State of South Carolina as a non-profit organization.
Boyd Saunders served as the first president from 1972 through 1974. Bernie Solomon hosted the first annual workshop conference in 1974 at his home institution of Georgia Southern College. In 1978, as the organization grew in membership, the name was changed to the Southern Graphics Council. Over the next 30 years, conferences were held in not only Southern states, but in New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Membership to the SGC also expanded, and now has a national and international membership. In 2010, the name was changed again to its current SGC International.
Written by Boyd Saunders, University of South Carolina
SGC President 1972-74 and Founding Member
Printmaking has never held a position of special prominence as a serious art form in the American South. Nevertheless, during the twentieth century a small group of practitioners managed to establish a basis for pursuing and developing the craft at various isolated locations throughout the Southland, usually as part of a college or university art department curriculum. While this academic affiliation provided the printmakers (usually one per location) with a somewhat secure base of operations, there was still very little available in the way of a support structure; whether economic, critical, or emotional. Extreme isolation and neglect were the common denominators shared by most of these artistic descendants of Durer, Rembrandt, and Goya.
In 1972 I sent letters to every printmaker in the South that I knew of and invited them to meet me at the annual convention of the Southeastern College Art Conference to try to form some sort of Printmakers’ organization. It was a portentous time. The SECAC conference of that year was particularly memorable for its inadequate preparation, virtual breakdown of structure, and resulting chaos, but a group of us managed to meet in my room at the old St. Charles Hotel and agreed to form what was then known as the Southeastern Graphics Council.
Bernie Solomon, John O’Neil and myself wound up as the obviously power-mad ruling triumvirate of this ragtag group. A set of bylaws was written and approved and the following year we were officially chartered by the State of South Carolina as a non-profit organization. Boy, did we ever have that part right!
On several occasions Bernie Solomon has referred to me as the father of the Southern Graphics Council and him as the mother; a concept, which one must admit, conjures up bizarre and terrifying images. From time to time I have occasion to remember introducing Bernie to John during that weekend in New Orleans. John had arrived late because he had been suffering the agonies of Hell with gout in his right big toe. Those of you who knew Bernie will remember that he was built wide, solid, and low to the ground. You will also remember that physical grace was not one of his many charms. Upon being introduced to John he stepped forward to shake John’s hand and in the same movement, accidentally stepped down with all his considerable weight on John’s gout-inflamed right foot. John’s involuntary response was loud, passionate, and profane, and could be heard the full length of Bourbon Street.
Little did I realize how portentous that event was. It sort of established the way things would go for us in the years that would follow.
The ancient curse says, “May you live in interesting times.”