UW-Stout Print Club and printmaking faculty in the School of Art and Design recently incorporated road construction equipment into their creative process.
After carving large fiberboard plates, most of which are hand-carved and around 3 by 4 feet in size, the group inked and pressed the prints on fabric at a Steamroller Printmaking event on the sidewalk outside of the Applied Arts Building and Micheels Hall on April 29.
Between 20 to 25 prints were pulled and are on display in the atrium outside of the Furlong Gallery in Applied Arts. They will be on display at the SOAD Senior Show on Friday, May 6.
Assistant Professor Rachel Bruya ran the event from 2016 to 2019. She and Professor Bryan Ritchie worked closely with SOAD interim Director Charlie Lume for the past year to bring the event back after a three-year hiatus.
“It’s very exciting to have the event again. There is a lot of energy and excitement in the air,” Bruya said. “The steamroller event develops a really strong sense of community. Many students and faculty are creating individual works, but the focus of the event is on the sense of community-building in printmaking and demonstrating that to the public.
“We work together, we problem solve and we do it all in public so everyone can watch. Following this event, many of our students feel more confident in their abilities to problem solve and execute their ideas and are inspired by the importance of creating a vibrant culture,” she added.
Printmaking offers the best of both worlds
Bruya believes the event is transformative for students majoring or minoring in printmaking as it expands their idea of what a press can be. “It often inspires them to get creative in how they can make a press when they graduate and inspires them to create community events that demonstrate how to make a print,” she said.
Print Club president Alexis Maurer and treasurer Jayden Foster have gone above and beyond in applying for funding and preparing for the event, Bruya said.
As a graphic design and interactive media senior, a lot of Foster’s projects are done on the computer, and printmaking offers them the best of both worlds.
“Printmaking gives me an outlet to have a more tactile experience while designing. It also has a loose and more humanistic look that has a charm to it, which is difficult to create on screens,” said Foster, of Kenosha. “With printmaking, I'm able to think like a designer and an artist at the same time.”
Foster appreciates how the steamroller event introduces people to the art of printmaking as a unique, collaborative process.
“Usually the process is very solitary, so having this be all about teamwork really brings everyone together and builds a lot of interest in printmaking itself. This makes it a good recruiting event for Print Club and the classes too,” they said.
Ritchie said student participation is crucial to the success of the event.
“The event, in my opinion, embodies some of the best qualities of printmaking and the School of Art and Design in general, including teamwork, problem solving and community building,” he said.
“Carving and printing a large plate is daunting, and it takes courage and commitment to undertake the task. I believe by embracing the challenge student participants were pushed to reconsider their creative limitations.”
As all students are welcome to join the Print Club, members represent a diverse range of university programs. Maurer is an art education senior from Baldwin.
Other students who participated were Maddy Bates, a dietetics senior, St. Paul; Brianna Capra, MFA design, Menomonie; Ezra Brey, a studio art senior, Stillwater, Minn.; Eliza Jorgenson, a studio art senior, Hudson; Kayla Lehner, a criminal justice and rehabilitation senior, St. Paul; Ray Pagenkopf, a studio art senior, McFarland; Dexter Rausch, an industrial design senior; Taylor Schumann, a graphic design and interactive media senior, Lyndon Station; Leah Shibilski, a graphics communication junior, Stevens Point; Aden Weisser, a game design and development-art first-year student from Milwaukee; and Michael Wolff, an industrial design and studio art senior, River Falls.
Creating a window into the creative process
Bruya values making art and design accessible and creating opportunities for the public to understand the creative process. She has completed several public art projects and started galleries.
“This event creates a window in the creative process and inspires someone to think about the importance of creative thinking in our society,” she said. “While SOAD’s Furlong Gallery and Gallery 209, the student gallery, are the best ways to get a peek at the strongest outcomes of our student’s creative process in a professional setting, this event hopefully extends an invitation and encourages more people to visit the galleries that are just a few feet away.”
The event takes about six months of planning and organizing, securing materials and renting the steamroller beforehand. “As funding is always a challenge, we typically offer the event every two to three years,” Bruya said. “And right now, a lot of paper and ink are on back order due to supply chain problems. The prices of the material we carve, medium density fiberboard, has skyrocketed.”
Bruya added that Lume has been instrumental in helping SOAD transition back to in-person events.
"Steamroller provides our community an opportunity to share in an external way what usually happens within a studio context,” Lume said. “This sharing allows the community to see the kinds of ideas, methodologies and wonder that art has the power to display and communicate.”
This was the first steamroller event with robust faculty and staff participation, both in plate development and printing.
The event featured a laser-cut plate created in the new Digital Process Lab by studio art alum Zion Guzman, which was cut by Zach Kolden, lab supervisor. Professor of life drawing Amy Fichter, lecturer and comic artist Mary Climes, and Deano Samens and Doug Stodola, who run the Process Lab, also carved plates.
Prior to the Senior Show, a grand opening of the Digital Process Lab will be from 4 to 6 p.m., room 119 of Applied Arts, and will include major donor and alum Bill Flesch.