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February 28, 2000

Printmaking students learn more than just technique

By Barbara McKenna

Paul Rangell, a lecturer in art, realized that he had a particularly gifted and motivated group of students in a recent printmaking class. Sensing that he had an opportunity to do a little more than usual with his class, Rangell assigned an ambitious project. By quarter's end, Rangell's students had learned more than just technique--they had learned how to create and collaborate at a professional level. The proof came in the form of their completed project--a stunning publication titled The Millennium Portfolio. A collection of five color prints, the portfolio is an exquisite example of craftsmanship and conceptual integrity.

One of five prints from The Millennium Portfolio,created by students Elan Kamesar, John Hardisty, Dior Kelley, and Annie Robb
Rangell began the quarter by putting his 21 students into five groups and defining a theme for them to base their work on. "I asked them to investigate the convergence of time and conflict in visual terms," he said. "I told them to keep in mind that this was also to be a kind of celebration of the millennium.""

Students worked in a range of printmaking media, including stone lithography, relief printing, intaglio, photo lithography, computer imagery, and die-cutting. The resulting portfolio expressed the assigned concepts in an emotional range from playful to disturbing.

Through a minigrant from the Center for Teaching Excellence, the cost of materials was covered, enabling the students to invest in a range of fine papers and diverse printing surfaces. The class was able to produce enough portfolios--25 in all--for each student to have their own. But for Rangell the less-tangible work the students took with them was equally important.

"A lot of my energy on this project went into making the group work and making them teach each other and push each other. The students were of an unusually high level of skill, and the chemistry of the class was such that genuine respect, tolerance, and stimulation emerged. The group challenged each other to very high objectives of content, concept, and technique. Their physical stamina and work ethic were truly remarkable."

Rangell has donated a copy of The Millennium Portfolio to Special Collections in McHenry Library. The portfolio can be viewed during Special Collections' regular hours. For information, call ext. 9-2547.

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