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This semester, two students are getting unique, hands-on experience with art at the College’s renowned Experimental Printmaking Institute (EPI).

Art and Spanish double major Ellen Rose ’09 (Spring Lake, N.J.) and art major Carolyn Burns ’09 (Wallingford, Conn.) are working with Curlee Raven Holton, professor and head of art and founding director of EPI, on a variety of projects.

They are collaborating through Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

“Here, they get real-world experience, and they produce objects that are displayed in major institutions,” Holton says. “They participate in the making of culture. They understand the art world in a more intimate way, and they see the resulting value of their time and energies.”

Among the responsibilities Rose and Burns share is a commemorative print entitled “Legacy” honoring David Kearney McDonogh 1844, Lafayette’s first African American graduate and perhaps the first person with legal status as a slave ever to receive a college degree.

As part of several activities the College has initiated in McDonogh’s honor, EPI has engaged renowned sculptor Melvin Edwards to create a campus sculpture commemorating the College’s granting of a degree to McDonogh in 1844. Holton proposed the statue and produced 100 limited edition fine-art prints in celebration and support of Edwards’ work.

Lafayette’s celebration of Black History Month, themed “The Souls of Black Folk: Unveiling Identity” (Jan. 31-Feb. 23), included the publication of a new magazine called The McDonogh Report and a supporting website celebrating the impressive contributions of African Americans to the Lafayette community.

The EXCEL project is not only teaching Burns about art, but also about Lafayette’s rich history.

“I am learning, by doing this print, about the history of the College as well as American history and how diversity and one individual can make a change,” she says.

In addition to the McDonogh project, Rose and Burns will organize studio time with artists to assist in the printing, processing, screening, and framing of various works.

“I have a hands-on role in the entire printmaking process through which these artists progress,” Rose says. “I feel I have made substantial findings. I have learned, as though a traditional apprentice, the steps involved in making professional fine arts prints.”

EPI helps students explore different areas of art and means of expression and clarify the types of art they want to pursue.

“I don’t know exactly which aspect of the art field I want to be in yet, but I feel there is so much out there to discover, and I want to learn as many different processes and techniques while I’m here so I will be versatile,” Burns says.

For Rose, the experience already has shown her she’s on the right career track.

“Working at EPI has helped me better understand what a career as a professional printer, professional artist, and professor entails,” she says. “Working at EPI has solidified my desire to work, in some capacity, in an arts-related field.”

They’ve both enjoyed working closely with Holton and look forward to getting involved in more projects at EPI.

Holton has mentored many Lafayette students in printmaking, bookmaking, drawing, and painting. Since he founded EPI in 1996, it has provided an open and creative environment for professional artists and students to create new bodies of work while investigating and experimenting with a wide variety of approaches to the print medium.

He has participated in several residencies and special projects and has served as curator for a dozen exhibitions. He is the author of Faith Ringgold: A View from the Studio, a book published in conjunction with an exhibition of Ringgold’s art at Allentown Art Museum. He had etchings selected for inclusion in the collections of the Library of Congress and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

“I feel so fortunate for the opportunities that I have encountered here at Lafayette,” Burns says. “To be working in the Experimental Printmaking Institute is an excellent opportunity because I get to see how a real print studio runs as well as work with great artists of our time. I don’t think I would have had these same opportunities had I gone to a different school.”

“I am very satisfied with the caliber of professional instruction, materials, and classroom space that I am provided here,” Rose adds. “I think a Lafayette education, which provides a multi-faceted learning experience rather than concentrating on developing a single skill like an arts school, will prepare me well for a career in the field of my choice.”

Holton is impressed with Rose and Burns’ commitment and enthusiasm for the project.

“They’re very detail-oriented,” he says. “They take their responsibilities in a very serious manner. They’re both very talented.”

Rose is a member of Lafayette Allegiance of Visual Artists and Delta Gamma sorority. She also volunteers with the Kids in the Community program through the Landis Community Outreach Center.

Burns is a resident adviser and president of Field Hockey Club. She also is a tour guide for the admissions office, member of Alpha Phi sorority, and teaching assistant for Intermediate Printmaking.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Twenty-one students have been accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News