Using low-tech tools like cereal boxes and a pasta maker, Anchorage artist Jimmy Riordan showed West Homer Elementary School students how to create colorful, playful prints and other art works. Last Friday, students displayed their work in the hallways of the school, with older students buddying up with younger students as they looked at the work. Many of the student artists also were on hand to discuss their projects.
Riordan finished his two-week residency last week as part of an Artists in the Schools program coordinated locally by Bunnell Street Arts Center. Artists in the Schools is supported by private donations, Bunnell fundraisers, and grants from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation and Alaska USA.
Riordan taught students classic printmaking techniques like making prints through etchings. Instead of copper plates, however, students used cereal boxes. Artists carved designs in the boxes, spread ink over the glossy cardboard, and then wiped the ink away, leaving ink in the impressions. Prints were made by running the etching and paper through a handcrank pasta maker — a cheap, portable tool Riordan said can be easily transported to residencies in rural Alaska.
“It’s just amazing,” Bunnell Street Arts Center executive director Asia Freeman said of Riordan’s innovation. “He’s super awesome.”
Students also had to write up artist’s statements on their work explaining things like the colors and shapes they used, how they made their work, what mood they wanted people to see and what they wanted people to notice. For example, of his work, “Peace Flag,” artist Landyn Doughty said, “I want people to notice that we need to stop war and bring peace to the world.”