Photo by Sergio Cabrera-Calana.

As experts in printmaking, University of Louisville professor Rachel Singel and humanities doctoral student Erica Lewis wanted to expand their classrooms off campus to connect more people to the art form. In collaboration with members of the local community, the Portland Museum and UofL, the two artists built an event bigger than themselves to bring the city together through CeLOUbrate Print.

During the April 20 event, participants of CeLOUbrate Print engaged in printmaking by creating large, hand-carved wooden stamps, or “woodcuts” and driving over them with a steamroller. With a quick training, a driver’s license and a rental steamroller, Singel was prepared to operate this unique printing press.

“The whole premise is building community,” Singel said. “One of the many reasons I fell in love with printmaking is it’s the democratic multiple. Where would we be without printmaking in terms of it is the way that we disseminate information?”

This art process involves creating an image via a woodcut, etching or engraving and using ink to create copies on paper or canvas like a stamp. Lithography and screen-printing are also forms of printmaking. An original work can be replicated endlessly with basic supplies and processes which eliminate boundaries to sharing work or marketing art.

Printmaking is inherently collective by nature and is a simple form of mass production of artistic work. The creation, production and sharing of a print can all be completed by one operator, removing many obstacles to sharing artwork or messages to build community connections. Additionally, many prints will have small variances from shifting equipment or blotting ink so despite being a mostly mechanical process, each print will have its own unique characteristics and value from the artist’s production.

“When people pull their very first print, it’s this really magical moment because their mind is blown, but they also understand exactly how and why it’s happening,” Lewis said. “You get to watch the light bulb go off.”

In addition to UofL, several sponsors and local businesses supported Singel and Lewis in their effort to bring more people together through CeLOUbrate Print and its workshops including Fund for the Arts, Printed Zine and Portland Museum. UofL alumni William Smith served as Lewis’s collaborator from Portland Museum and assisted with grant writing, advertising and planning the event over eight months.

Ahead of CeLOUbrate Print, Lewis organized over a dozen woodblock carving workshops to help prepare participants to make prints with the steamroller press. The workshops were an addition from Singel’s steamroller press events in previous years. Lewis’s passion for the project comes out of the desire to make printmaking more accessible and this is the driving goal of their studies in printmaking and public humanities.

“Printmakers assume things have to be in a very specific way, your borders have to be clean, no smudges so it’s usually done in a shop – it’s done with a press,” Lewis said. “It’s done this way, so I really wanted to have an event that not only made people know what printmaking is, but it also made that knowledge accessible and doable in your kitchen.”

Alongside the CeLOUbrate Print event, the Portland Museum unveiled a new printmaking exhibit titled “Shop Talk.” The museum invited Louisville printmakers to display their work but encouraged the featured artists to invite other printmakers from outside the region to also participate. The exhibit is a practice of building connections between Louisville’s artists and other pockets of printmakers across the nation. “Shop Talk” will be on display at the Portland Museum until the end of August.

To keep up with UofL’s art students and programming, visit the Hite Art Institute of Art and Design website.