written by Julian Rankin | photography by Frank Farmer
Artist Ian Hanson makes things. He paints and designs and screen prints, but he has also carved and sculpted, with his creativity, a livelihood. During the day, he works as a product designer at Jackson-based home wares company Kalalou, creating sketches of furniture and accessories, and when he isn’t on the clock, he operates Midcity Print with three other business partners, including his girlfriend and fellow artist Leslie Galloway.
Hanson grew up in Jackson and went to college at University of Wisconsin. For a number of years after graduation, he worked as a graphic designer in places like Colorado and Savannah and Minneapolis. It was while he was living in these established city centers that he became heavily influenced by the screen-printed gig posters and ephemeral designs that colored the urban landscape. When he returned to Fondren in the late 2000s, he brought his experience with him. “So many people were doing these crazy beautiful screen printed posters and stuff. But it wasn’t nearly as big a thing in Jackson.”
Midcity Print, as the name suggests, is located in the neighborhood of Midtown, a haven for creatives that sits a stone’s throw or a short bike ride from Fondren proper. The print shop has been in operation in its current form for a little over a year with Galloway, Bryan Barham, and Ken Patterson, although Hanson has been screen-printing on his own for much longer than that.
“We’re all forty-hour-a-week designers,” says Hanson, “so this is kind of our side hustle. We all just love the art and poster print. The media itself has it’s own value and appeal. Tactile beauty.”
When the opportunity came to rent out a space in The Hangar to launch the business, Hanson and the others jumped at the chance. No more is he washing out screens in his bathtub. But even with a legitimate setup, Midcity Print upholds the DIY ethos that fuels so many other projects in the city.
“We built everything from scratch,” comments Hanson’s partner, Leslie Galloway. The exposure unit required for printing is little more than a lamp mounted on a counter that they painted matte black. The vacuum table, another key ingredient to the process, was built by Hanson, who opted to make it himself instead of having parts shipped in. “That’s what’s so fun about it,” Galloway says. “We put this together from ground zero.”
In addition to his aforementioned artistic pursuits, Hanson is the organizer of Priced to Move, one of the city’s leading art sales featuring original work from dozens of local artists. The concept is to gather together affordable original art and to cultivate an appreciation within the buying public. Hanson’s propensity toward accessible art is core to his vision. By his own admission, he often undervalues paintings so that friends and fellow artists can more easily acquire them. “I want to make art available to people,” he says.
Hanson goes into the office in the morning and spends his work day customizing products. After the day is done, he heads to the studio. When the Fondrenite isn’t actively creating, the art spirit of the neighborhood equally informs his leisure time. From the musicians, chefs and architects he associates with to the conversations they have over craft beers and the inventive cuisine that has also taken root in Fondren, ingenuity is all around. All of these players are part of a Mississippi creative class that is actively reshaping the social and business life of the city.
“We end up hanging out and talking about all that,” he says. “Music and cooking and sneakers. Everything has this aesthetic bend to it. It’s almost comical how invasive the act of creating is,” says Hanson. “How much it affects every aspect of your world.”
The things Ian Hanson makes would be at home in the cultural centers of Austin, Texas or New York. Artistic ideas and skills are exportable. Even so, they are being made here in Jackson. That distinction is important and intentional.
“In some other cities with big industries or massive universities you have built-in young professional populations,” Hanson says. “If you’re in Jackson and you’re part of that 20, 30, 40 year-old bracket, you most likely made the choice to move here or to stay here, or like I did, to come back here. That makes it more special because people take pride and ownership in the progress. And it’s all happened super organically.”