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For over 30 years, Tandem Press has used the art of printmaking as a means for creative experimentation, unparalleled education, and public service. It follows in the tradition of the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ by bringing internationally recognized artists to Madison to interact with students, faculty, and broader communities throughout the state. 

In 1986, University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department faculty member William (Bill) Weege recommended establishing a fine art printmaking press at the university. Inspired by Off Jones Road Press, the small press he ran out of his own home studio in rural Wisconsin, Weege proposed inviting artists from around the country to the studio for short residencies during which they would collaborate with professionally trained master printers to create fine art editions of prints. Students from the university would be involved in the collaboration and would gain first-hand experience working with artists in a professional printmaking studio. 

The press was proposed as a self-funded endeavor that would be supported through donations, grants, and the sale of artworks that were published by the studio. Art Department faculty unanimously supported the idea and John Palmer, the Dean of the School of Education at the time, threw his full support behind the concept.

In the fall of 1987, Tandem Press was officially established with Bill Weege as its director. A subscriber program was set up to fund and support initial operating expenses. Following in the spirit of Off Jones Road Press, Tandem ensured that experimentation and freedom of expression would continue to inspire everyone who came to the studio. Internationally renowned painter Sam Gilliam was the first artist to be invited to the new Tandem Press studio to create fine art prints.

In 1989, Paula Panczenko was appointed director of Tandem Press. As Weege cut back his involvement, Tandem Press continued to expand on its original vision.