AMES, Iowa — A redesigned space shared by the Departments of Art and Visual Culture and Graphic Design offers expanded opportunities for Iowa State University students to explore printmaking and screen printing in a collaborative environment.

The departments transformed underutilized spaces in a graphic design classroom and adjacent storage room to house a screen-printing exposure unit, a wash-out booth, a power washer, drying racks and vacuum printing tables. Students enrolled in the “Special Topics in Screen Printing” and “Studio Fundamentals in Printmaking” courses, both taught by art and visual culture assistant professor Raluca Iancu, were among the first to use the space last semester. Most students in the fall courses were graphic design and integrated studio arts majors, but the classes are open to all Iowa State students.

Parallel to intersecting paths

This project grew from independent yet interrelated desires, said Paul Bruski, associate professor and interim chair of graphic design. While students previously could use screen-printing equipment in the Memorial Union Workspace, his graduate students wanted more convenient access in the College of Design. Bruski also sought ways to give all graphic design students access to multiple means of production and was working to create a modest screen-printing facility.

At the same time, Iancu was looking to offer a fine art screen-printing course. Coincidentally, the Memorial Union closed the screen-printing studio there and donated its equipment — most notably the exposure unit — to the art and visual culture department.

When Zack Stewart, a graphic design graduate student from Auburn, learned where the MU’s equipment had gone, he initiated conversation between Iancu and Bruski in fall 2019.

“Without Zack’s effort to bring us together, we would have continued down parallel paths. He helped us recognize the potential for collaboration between our programs much sooner than it may have happened,” Iancu said. The two faculty set about developing the shared space with a focus on curriculum integration, cost efficiency and opportunities for hands-on work.

Much more than T-shirts

“Obviously, our students spend a lot of time creating in the digital space, but we would like to see them work in a variety of ways and consider combining digital and hands-on techniques,” Bruski said. Once students successfully complete the semester-long screen-printing course, they will continue to have access to the equipment.

“As most students tend to think only of T-shirts in relation to screen printing, I wanted to show them that the world of serigraphy is much more expansive than that,” Iancu said. The overlaps between printmaking and graphic design, and the innovative ideas and inspiration that students in both disciplines can explore through the collaboration make this an exciting venture, she said.

To comply with reduced density and physical-distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, room capacity is currently limited to four students at a time, surfaces are sanitized regularly and a booking system must be used to reserve the space. Iancu and Bruski are eager for more students to be able to use the space and work collaboratively in the future.

“We’re really grateful for the support of departmental leadership over the past couple of years to get this going,” Bruski said.

“We’re amazed we were able to get it done in spite of all that’s happened during the pandemic,” Iancu said. “It’s been like a ray of sunshine.”


Raluca Iancu, Art and Visual Culture, riancu@iastate.edu
Paul Bruski, Graphic Design, bruski@iastate.edu
Meg Grice, Design Communications, mgrice@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, hsauer@iastate.edu