Fourth and Fifth graders at Maury Elementary School (1250 Constitution Ave. NE) explored the art of printmaking by creating linocuts of their personal identity symbols. Linocut is a technique in which a sheet of linoleum is used for a relief surface. A design is cut into the surface using a gouge—a chisel with a V-shaped blade. Ink is rolled onto the block using a brayer. The carved areas will not be inked and will be negative space when the print is pulled. Then the block is pressed against fabric or paper. This can be done either by hand, as the students did, or by using a printing press.
The technique was originally executed on wood. Maury students used rubber blocks, as they require less pressure to cut—but there was still an exciting whiff of danger in working with potentially dangerous tools. Because printmaking allows the artist to pull multiple original works of art, there is a long tradition of trading prints within the
Maury art instructor, Lauren Bomba, developed the project in lieu of a yearbook. Her thinking: “Just as a message in a yearbook immortalizes a moment in time, these personal images serve as a visual history for the student’s future-self to look back on.” Students had total freedom in composing the images, but were instructed to ask themselves the question, “What image will best represent my 4th or 5th grade self?” Family pets, beasts of the forest, team logos, favorite foods, every-day objects, geometric abstractions— the unique responses reflect the students’ diverse perspectives and interests.
After designing and carving, students pulled dozens of high contrast prints to serve as “creative currency” for a lively print exchange. Students delighted in acquiring art they had admired throughout the process, and mementos of special friendships. A lasting impression was made on both the cardstock paper and one another as these resilient kids wrapped up another memorable year together.
A selection of prints was set aside to create the show in the Young Artists Gallery at Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). They are also on view in a virtual gallery: hillcenterdc.org/artist/young-artists-gallery-maury-2022/. See the show in person or on line; you’ll be happy to see that the print-making tradition continues in the hands of these young artists.