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Partnership rolls out UW-Stevens Point RiverPoint Paper nationwide

What started as a collaboration between departments at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has expanded to a partnership with a major national supplier of high-quality art papers.

RiverPoint Paper is now being marketed by Strathmore Artist Papers. The Strathmore brand of artist papers has been used to create art for more than 120 years.

“The agreement brings a new range of fine art papers to market and provides an additional revenue source for several Wisconsin companies,” said Paul Fowler, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology. WIST had been involved in the development and marketing of the paper along with other UW-Stevens Point departments.

“The stars aligned,” Fowler said. “A private company from Wisconsin came to us. They saw an unmet market need for great-value, high-quality paper. We were able to meet the need, not competing, but facilitating.”

Strathmore is a division of Pacon Corp. in Appleton. Pacon is a leading producer and marketer of paper products for education, including construction paper and other teacher resources.

Strathmore representatives contacted WIST last winter, inquiring about collaborating on two additional grades of printmaking art paper. Gerry Ring, retired Paper Science and Engineering Department chair, narrowed a list of pulps in various fiber types, then worked with Strathmore and UW-Stevens Point colleagues to develop the new grades of non-cotton paper.

“They liked the fact that they didn’t have to put the money upfront developing it,” Fowler said. WIST focuses on research and development of sustainable products and processes, working with industries to bring them to market. Fowler sees it as a pump-priming role.

The original RiverPoint paper is branded as 500 Series RiverPoint Cotton Printmaking and will continue to be made exclusively at UW-Stevens Point on its paper machine. It anchors the new line of printmaking papers from Strathmore Artist Papers. The new grades, Strathmore 300 Series Lightweight and 400 Series Heavyweight, are made by a Wisconsin paper mill.

“Anytime new grades of paper are manufactured in Wisconsin, paper mill jobs are retained or created,” Fowler said. “We wanted to ensure this was a Wisconsin story.”

A $1.45 million UW-System Economic Development Incentive Grant made this possible, he said. It funded enhancements to the pilot paper machine for specialty paper and packaging and included the development of two additional grades of paper.

UW-Stevens Point will receive royalties on paper sold during the next five years, which will be reinvested in educational programs and infrastructure. UW-Stevens Point will continue to make its cotton fiber grade of RiverPoint Paper for student use on campus as part of the agreement.

RiverPoint Paper was born after UW-Stevens Point Art and Design Professor Bob Erickson asked Paper Science and Engineering colleagues if they could make fine art paper. The Paper Science and Engineering Department is home to the world’s fastest student-run pilot paper machine.

His goal was to create a high-quality archival art paper at an economical cost for students. At the time they were paying about $5 per sheet for a French cotton fiber paper.

Art faculty provided paper samples and described what they needed. WIST and Paper Science and Engineering produced paper in small trial runs, which art students and faculty tested for quality and performance with various media. After several tries, an art paper was created that met needs for performance, texture and strength specifically for printmaking.

RiverPoint Paper was so well received by UW-Stevens Point art students and faculty that WIST began making it available more widely in 2013. Interest in the new paper led to a collaboration with Strathmore Artist Papers to market and distribute RiverPoint and to develop the additional grades of paper.

UW-Stevens Point art and design students provided artwork for consideration as the cover of the Strathmore papers. Strathmore representatives selected art by UW-Stevens Point student Lanea Zagrezebski of Rudolph for the 300 Series pads. Art on the 500 Series is by UW-Stevens Point graduate Shawn Ganther. Their names and UW-Stevens Point are credited on every retail pack.

“It’s a true partnership,” Fowler said.

Strathmore will market the paper throughout North America and the complete line of printmaking papers will be available at fine art and craft stores and chains to meet growing interest in making prints.