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  • Words by Amanda Seevers / Photography by Tanja

Equipping Young Printmaking Professionals at Robinson High School


Last month, we stopped by Christopher Swaty’s art classroom at Robinson High School in Little Rock. Christopher received his second fully-funded Art Closet project at the very start of the school year—he requested supplies to facilitate teaching different forms of printmaking. Through Thea’s Art Closet, public high school art teachers are able to submit a project request valued at $2,500 or less, and Thea Foundation immediately funds half of the project (up to $1,250) while other donors through DonorsChoose, an online giving platform, complete the rest of the funding.

From our classroom visits seeing supplies in-action, we are able to further understand the needs of Arkansas teachers across the state who seek to expand their visual arts teaching for their mature students at the high school level. In Christopher’s classroom, we witnessed every portion of the supplies and equipment we helped fund being used with minimal guidance as the students, within just a few weeks time, had really grown to understand the medium and challenge themselves to create new designs.

Of his students, Christopher said, “They always find creative ways to explore what they are passionate about in their artwork and love experimenting with new methods and materials. They particularly enjoy learning traditional, hands-on methods over newer and digital media.”

Upon the arrival of the items submitted for the project, including a very heavy etching press (the most expensive need for the printmaking project), Christopher shared that his students were so excited and eager to help with the setup of the press. Before letting the students begin using the equipment, he provided instruction for the functions of bed plate and blankets, mounting and adjusting the pressure to accommodate different materials going through the press.

Christopher’s instruction also focused on educating students about using the etching needles to engrave lines and sanding the surface to create different values. “Students learned about editions, how to apply the ink, prepare their paper, register and label their prints. They enjoyed the process overall, and learning about etching has been especially exciting for my students that put tons of time and effort into single drawings, because it allowed them to create editions of their images,” said Christopher.

The students who attend Robinson High School come from diverse backgrounds, and Christopher continues to challenge his students to work independently with many students now working on larger prints and starting to experiment with combining etching with block printing, transferring imagery from the plexi to linoleum to work with multi-color printing.

He is hoping his students will soon be able to expand into electrolytic copper etching. Note: Christopher’s latest Art Closest project submitted for the copper etching supplies has already received 50% funding from Thea Foundation, and we are hopeful his second project for this school semester will be fully-funded in the coming weeks.

Christopher’s classroom is a unique, shared space with fellow art teacher, Van Horn, who has recently submitted his first Art Closet project for pottery-related supplies. Thea Foundation has also already supplied 50% of the needed funds for Van’s project. We look forward to continuing to support Christopher and Van’s efforts to challenge their students at Robinson High School to explore new visual arts mediums.

About Thea Foundation’s Art Closet Program

For the 2019-20 school year, Thea Foundation will fund $100k in grants to Arkansas public school teachers in need of art supplies and creative materials. This amount is double what we were able to fund during the previous school year so we look forward to increasing this momentum to further support our state’s educators who desperately need resources to create enriching educational experiences for their students. Last year, Thea’s Art Closet funded 145 different projects in classrooms at 88 public schools across the state. With the increase in available funding, applicable Arkansas public school teachers are able to submit two projects for funding per semester (four projects per school year). More information about Thea's Art Closet, including how to submit a project for possible funding, can be found here.

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