Paul Cunningham: How long have you been designing books for Action Books? Can you share some of your favorite cover designs with us?
Andrew Shuta: I believe I’ve been designing for Action since 2010. The first book I designed was Hank by Abe Smith. I can’t believe it’s been eleven years!
PC: Whenever Action Books sends a new title your way, can you tell us what your design process is like? Do the poems themselves ever influence your design?
AS: The design process varies with every book. Sometimes authors or translators have a photograph or concept they really want to use, so I have to start from that foundation and work outward, twisting and contorting things until they fit the overall Action aesthetic.
When I’m given free-reign, I definitely use the poems as an inspiration—I’ll look for lines, phrases, or images that stand out to me and try to represent them (or the feelings they emote) visually.
PC: Beyond Action Books, you’re an artist, musician, graphic designer, web designer, animator, illustrator. What can you tell us about your personal work?
AS: I work for a creative agency, so I spend my days making things for clients—at the end of the day, I’m creatively burned out, so I haven’t been producing personal work for what seems like forever. It’s sad, especially since a lot of my joy in life comes from making things. Although, I have just started making music again after a 6-7 year hiatus—hopefully we’ll be releasing stuff in the summer. And perhaps that’ll give me the energy to make some more art on my own time.
PC: You’re the co-director of Everybody. What can you tell us about this curatorial project?
AS: Everybody started in Tucson, AZ, where there was little-to-no representation in contemporary art, so two friends and I figured we’d be a part of the solution and build out a space.
Our mission is to show work by emerging and perpetually-emerging artists; to give them a platform and a clean space to showcase their work. The response was amazing.
After two years and 13 shows in Tucson, we moved the gallery to Chicago. We transformed this ugly, 1970s-looking office space into a beautiful gallery space and had five shows. Then COVID hit. We tried to get a little bit of a rent reduction from the landlord, but he refused, despite all of the money and energy we spent renovating the space. After a lot of consideration, we closed our Chicago space. We’re an artist-run, self-funded gallery and we couldn’t afford to keep the space open with COVID having no end in sight.
Now, we’re figuring out what to do for our next iteration, once the world opens up a bit more. Either way, our mission will remain the same!
PC: Who are some of your favorite living artists?
AS: I love Alex Da Corte, Isa Genzkin, Elliott J. Robbins, Olivier Mosset, Jocko Weyland, Cheyenne Julien & many, many more artists.
PC: Do you have any advice for young artists looking to make a name for themselves?
AS: Make tons of work and put it out there. Social media is a pharmakon: use it but don’t let it poison you. Traditional trajectories for artists are slowly dissolving, so don’t be afraid to carve out your own path. Be precious, but not to the point where it paralyzes you. Be nice and care for others.