Lloyd G. Schermer's sculpture "Our Neighbors" is on display at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.


A new piece of art at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum brings the past into the present.

Lloyd G. Schermer's newly installed sculpture, titled "Our Neighbors," reminds us of the way newspapers used to be made.

Not so very long ago, newspapers were printed with what was called hot-metal typesetting.

The system involved injecting molten metal into a wood or metal mold that's in the shape of a letter, punctuation mark, number, or images of such things as animals. That slug (what it was called) was used to press ink onto paper.

That was then; this is now: Newspapers use photographic typesetting.

Back in the day (that would be the '60s) Schermer, now a part-time Tucsonan, was a newspaper publisher who saw the hot-metal typesetting give way to the less messy, more efficient printing methods.

But he's found a way to memorialize the art of the hot-lead method. And to make art.

Schermer's sculptures incorporate the molds, antique wood, metal type and print plates that were once all standard tools in printing a paper.

Schermer, who retired in 1991 as chief executive of Lee Enterprises Inc., the Davenport, Iowa-based chain that now owns the Arizona Daily Star, has 3-D sculptures in the New York Times Tower in New York City, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and on a massive door at the Washington Post.

"Our Neighbors," a gift to the museum from Schermer, is on view in the ASDM's Warden Oasis Theatre. You can see it - and touch it - when you are there for one of the museum's wild-animal orientations (there's at least one every day of the week; times are on the brochures you receive when you enter the museum).

A portion of the Star and now-closed Tucson Citizen are a part of the piece - Schermer used about 45 engravings of animals in the Southwest for his artwork. They were first used for a series that ran in the Citizen in 1964 and '65.

"It's hung low enough so that kids can touch it," said Rosemary Prawdzik, the ASDM's director of marketing.

"That's part of the reason we hung it that way - for those who don't understand what a printing press is, touching the plates was critical."