As an environmental artist, Roger Peet never imagined his printmaking would lead to working with children. But when he was required to teach a class of middle school students as part of his month-long residency at Caldera Arts earlier this year, Peet recognized it as a chance to communicate environmental preservation through the creation of art.
“Before Caldera I hadn’t given much thought to doing something with kids. Having them request that provided me with material to think about other things to do and just ways to interact with parts of society that I normally wouldn’t interact with,” he says.
The Caldera Arts Center is a nonprofit arts organization that supports children with limited opportunities through long-term mentoring and arts learning, as well as provides fully subsidized residencies to professional artists.
Peet introduced Caldera’s students to printmaking through a technique he picked up while traveling in Indonesia.
Together they rolled a large sheet of paper onto a pre-carved ink block. After removing their shoes, they walked across it, pressing ink into the paper. Peet then turned on some music and before he knew it, he had a party of stocking-clad children dancing across a work of art. When the image was complete, the children peeled the huge poster off of the block and hung it on their classroom wall.
Seeing the kids’ engagement with the process of making art was eye-opening, says Peet.
“A lot of my stuff can be kind of dark or complicated. So to have something that kids could participate in or relate to, even if they weren’t necessarily gawking all over the deep meaning, was really neat. They could enjoy the process and get something out of having created and having collaborated in an artistic object.”
As an artist in residence at Caldera Arts Center, Peet spent the month of February living in an A-frame cabin near Sisters, Oregon. Outside of the classroom he spent his time creating a body of work influenced by his previous experience advocating for the establishment of a national park in the Republic of Congo.
Peet’s collection is on display at Caldera’s Portland office through July. His prints are reminiscent of political posters, with a focus on the natural world’s reaction to our industrialized civilization. His posters often mix images of ecology with humorous text.
“My goal is to encourage doubt,” says Peet of how he approaches his work. “Most of that will come from thinking of a slogan or a motto or some kind of play on words that can be read in several directions, then extrapolating an image from that or using that to develop a visual idea.”
“An example of an image I recently made was a wolf chasing a rabbit with the words ‘Never Give Up’ and what I liked about that is it could be read either as ‘yay wolf’ or ‘yay rabbit’ or ‘yay wolf and rabbit.’ You can cheer either one on, but the point is that they’re both running for their lives.”
Editor’s Note - July 29, 2013: A previous version of this article stated that the Caldera Arts Center supports children with opportunities through long-term mentoring and arts learning. The article was updated to state that the Caldera Arts Center supports children with limited opportunities through long-term mentoring and arts learning.