Printmaking class turns into an opportunity

School pride. It’s a simple thing that most high school students take for granted. Yet it spans the mascot a school adopts to the cheers sports fans shout at games to the school logos and slogans that adorn sweatshirts, T-shirts and athletic gear.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that school pride is lacking at Arts and Technology High School, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District’s only alternative school. While the school does lack teams, a mascot, cheers and — until recently — spirit wear, school pride abounds.

Ask Zach Walker, a senior midway through his first year at ATHS.

“Everybody here wants everybody to succeed,” he said.

What has been lacking — until now — is an easy way for ATHS students to show their school pride.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - ATHS senior Sascha Ellis watches as junior Esthela Rodriguez uses screen-printing equipment on a T-shirt.“All the other high schools have T-shirts and stuff,” ATHS senior Sascha Ellis said.

Thanks to the efforts of Ellis, Walker and their classmates, ATHS now has those things too.

A printmaking class led by teacher Ben Whitcomb has combined the study of art and business to create the ATHS spirit wear now available for students and school supporters to purchase and PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Teacher Ben Whitcomb coaches Esthela Rodriguez through the screen-printing process.

Whitcomb brought his own printmaking experience and the students brought their enthusiasm. Much of the rest came from an unlikely source: Craigslist.

Whitcomb said he saw an ad on the online marketplace that offered professional printmaking supplies for sale. Though the items were tempting, the $2,000 price tag was not.

He didn’t let his lack of funds stand in the way, though. He contacted the sellers to ask if they would consider giving up the sale in favor of a tax-deductible donation to the school. Somewhat to his surprise, the sellers agreed.

Suddenly, the ATHS art teacher had all the equipment — and even some of the ink — needed to set up a professional printmaking shop in his classroom.

He also had an abundance of budding printmakers.

“This year Ben developed a two-class printmaking sequence, leading students through printmaking techniques and two-dimensional design instruction,” ATHS Principal Saskia Dresler said. “The culmination of the classes is a screen-printing unit.”

Whitcomb’s students put a call out to fellow students and received five designs. They used computer design programs to refine the designs to make them work with the project. They picked colors, ordered T-shirts and hoodies, created order forms and launched a student-run business, ATHS Apparel Enterprise.

“A lot of the students were in basic printmaking (class),” Whitcomb said. “I modified the curriculum to focus on ... more of an experimental business experience. These kids are able to use their talents. Everyone has an essential role.”

Some students worked on computers to prepare the designs. Others prepared the emulsion and screens that would transfer the designs, while others worked on the business plan and tallied orders.

“It’s the perfect mix of art and technology that can be lucrative. It can be a business,” Whitcomb said.

“He’s trying to show us the business side,” Walker said. He also picked up the art techniques involved, explaining the screen preparation and transfer process with ease.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Esthela Rodriguez, a junior at Arts and Technology High School, uses a squeegee to force plastic paint through a fine-mesh screen onto a T-shirt.Other students, like Esthela Rodriguez, Maria Alexandre and Alek Newton, were operating the equipment and making the T-shirts Jan. 21. Rodriguez used the equipment confidently, adeptly applying just the right amount of liquid plastic paint to T-shirts and hoodies. She was one of the few students in the class who had not taken the previous printmaking course.

“This is my first time doing this,” Rodriguez said. “I just got used to it. ... I had a good teacher.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - The students in Ben Whitcomb's printmaking class are learning about screenprinting and have created ATHS spirit wear to sell.
Each item the students created Jan. 21 had an owner already waiting for it. Students estimated that they had presold about half their stock.

“We haven’t broke even yet, but we’re hoping to,” Newton said.

“All the money we make is going into the art program. We’re trying to get better equipment and stuff for future art classes,” Ellis said. “It was kind of a cool way for the art class to help the school and show school spirit.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Alek Newton, left, and Maria Alexandre work together to screen-print an ATHS design onto a shirt.“It just brings the school together,” Rodriguez said. “Making them is a better experience than buying them. The fact that we’re making them is bigger.”

“This first edition of ATHS apparel is sure to make a mark on the community,” Dresler said. “Students are thrilled to share their love of our school with family, friends and the community by wearing their new ATHS gear.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Alek Newton and Maria Alexandre prepare to print another piece of ATHS apparel.Whitcomb said the printmaking program is developing gradually at ATHS. This year’s class has seven students out of a total school enrollment of 105 this school year.

“I’m hoping (this year’s sales) will be able to continuously fund this printmaking program,” Whitcomb said.

An order form eventually will appear on the ATHS website, For now, those interested in purchasing a T-shirt for $12 or a hoodie for $23 should contact school secretary Nancy Schrank at 503-673-7375 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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