MPA was formed in the spring of 1984 by a group of Manitoba print artists. In 1985, MPA became an incorporated member-based non-profit organization and was initially dedicated to artistic and technical excellence in the fine art of printmaking--intaglio, relief, lithography, silkscreen and monoprints. One of the Association's long-term goals was realized in July of 1989 when MPA moved into its open studio and gallery facilities at 114 Market Avenue East. The studio became one of the largest, best equipped and most diversified open printmaking facilities in Canada. Used by artists from various disciplines and experience levels, the studio featured leading-edge digital and photographic capabilities, custom printing services, and a full range of classes and lectures for artists and for the general public. Equipment included three etching presses, including a Charles Brand press with a 40 X 60 inch bed, a litho press, silkscreen tables, photo processing rooms, drying racks, a solvent unit, hot plates and 5000 square feet of work space. In addition, MPA rented a variety of private studios to artists and offered printmaking classes to the community.
In June 1996, MPA learned that the Manitoba Arts Council was suddenly reducing core funding to MPA and to several other visual arts groups by 85%. In 1997, the Canada Council, in response to its own funding difficulties, withdrew its 1998 funding for all printmaking facilities across Canada, including MPA. These two events, combined with an already weak financial structure, resulted in the sudden closure of the studio. In March 1997 the Board of Directors elected to close the MPA facility on Market Avenue, sell off the equipment and dissolve the organization. At that meeting a stalwart few decided to keep the organization alive, place all of the production equipment in storage, layoff all staff, and relocate the MPA office to temporary quarters.
The 1997 funding crisis and resultant closure of its Market Avenue facility forced the Manitoba Printmakers' Association to re-evaluate many of the organization's basic assumptions and operational systems.
The Association undertook a major review of the organization as a whole, and was quickly able to determine that neither its scope of activities nor their relationships to its members were at issue. Rather, the problem was essentially one of insufficient resources for the provision of the necessary facilities and services. The Association proceeded to consider new sources of revenue and alternate modes of operation. Working without paid staff and operating from donated office space, MPA considered ways to re-establish a printmaking facility, which would become increasingly self-sufficient. It was assisted in this effort by staff at the Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
Since the strategic plan was completed in 1998, the Association has established a new printmaking facility following the model outlined in the strategic study. The Association was successful with its renewed efforts to obtain charitable tax status. It received designation as a "Charitable Organization" effective January 2000. This important development has allowed the Association to tap into many new sources of funding to assist with both the initial costs of re-establishing a community printmaking facility as well as with special projects and ongoing programming over the long term.