Todd Arsenault, MFA, Art & Art History

Sustainability in Printmaking

The production of art presents many opportunities for students to consider and address issues of sustainability. I came to the Valley and Ridge workshop with a broad interest in developing a sustainability framework that could be broadly implemented across the 2D studio art courses that I teach, with a specific focus of implementing sustainable practices in our printmaking curriculum (processes that include etching, screenprinting, lithography, and woodcut). I also have the goal of developing a sustainable artist book assignment as part of the printmaking class. I could even see this assignment paving the way for a dedicated special topics course in the future.

Printmaking is an area that offers possibility for students to conceptually explore issues and themes related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As a process that has a history of using highly toxic materials and processes, it is an ideal venue in which to address environmental concerns connected to the process of artmaking. In recent years, many of the highly toxic processes in printmaking have been replaced with materials that are less toxic and more environmentally friendly and it is my goal to implement these practices in our printshop. From an environmental standpoint, printmaking processes can take advantage of recycled and repurposed materials––scrap wood can be used for woodcut, paper with existing text or image can be overprinted. Along these lines, I plan on having an artist book assignment that uses only repurposed materials along with environmentally friendly, plant-based inks. It is my hope that students can respond to repurposed materials from a conceptual point of view as they consider the broader connections among the UN Sustainable Development Goals.