Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Texas Size Print Project

The Texas Size Print Project~Kim Bishop

Blessing the installation grounds-Alamo Stadium, SATX- Photo by Expose the Heart (David & Irene Castillo)

Keywords: Collaboration, Community, Cooperation, Creation

 “Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I have been an artist all of my life and an art educator since 1989. I grew up at the University of Texas in Austin during the 1960’s and 70’s.  My Grandfather was Dean of the School of Communications and my Mother and Father writers for the Daily Texan, because of this upbringing I was surrounded by creative and tolerant people.  These people instilled in me values such as the importance of giving to your community and education while allowing me the freedom to create.  This is what attracted me to San Antonio.  Everywhere you look in San Antonio is art and likewise people with an understanding of the need for strong community cooperation.  San Antonio felt like the home I missed from childhood. The people here are a beautiful mix of Texas cultures from the original Native American and Meso-American to the cultures of Tejano settlers and those who just happened to land here.  We are a mix and in no other place have I seen such a celebration of this mix than here in San Antonio.

When I first came to San Antonio I knew history was being made here. I could feel the creative energy pulsating from a strong community of artists. Tapping into that energy seemed like the thing to do.  I had met Paul Karam and Luis Valderas five years prior to the Texas Size Print project while working on a large-scale print event through Stone Metal Press.  We were instantly friends. In 2010 Valderas, Karam and myself formed Art To The Third Power, a creative collaborative with the mission of bringing art to our community by educating the community to its power.  We see the power of art as being the unifying element in a society that promotes kinship. Through the Texas Size Print project we were able to address mythical creation concepts with art processes and techniques while bringing a collective of individuals and organizations together to produce a creative outcome.  We were able to bring the business of art into the public classroom by sharing our profession with high school students and including them in our business by teaching them how to make their own.  We are professional artists and with that we need to tell our stories through education and documentation as a part of our own self-realization. 

Our goal is to promote the collaboration that the power of art brings to a community through experiential teaching by involving the public in its making and exhibition. Steve Jobs addressed the need for experiences like this in his February 1995 Wired magazine interview
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
Unfortunately too, creative experiential teaching has become a rare commodity in our modern test driven schools so as artist educators we want to bring the cooperative learning experience to the public.
The Texas Size Print
It was a crisp, breezy morning on January 14, 2012, when close to 120 volunteers joined us in a ceremonial blessing circle at the center of Alamo Stadium.  We all held hands around a Native American Shaman (Ricky Armendariz) as he blessed the field and offered our thanks for the opportunity to make history. Being in Texas, high school football has been an important tradition and being in San Antonio, Alamo Stadium is the oldest stadium. This is why utilizing this historic place of competition for a place of collaborative art making seemed the perfect venue for our installation. Never before has there been a large-scale print public art installation and never before has it occurred inside historic Alamo Stadium.  

Entering historic Alamo Stadium-SATX                                                                                         Photo by Luis Valderas

As a member of Art To The Third Power, artists Paul Karam, Luis Valderas and myself had been working on The Texas Size Print Project for three years. We wanted to create a public art installation project that would educate the community about the importance of art, culture and collaboration by involving all aspects of the public from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to my Brackenridge High School AP Art History students. The Texas Size Print is made of thirty large woodcut relief print sections put together to span the size of a football field.  In order to create such a large print we needed a steamroller as a printing press, a printing day event and an installation day event with lots of volunteers. The project was broken into three phases:  the making of the print, the public art display and the educational component, with each phase overlapping and evolving to the next.

Phase One: Making The Print
Karam, Valderas and I met twice a week for over a year planning and designing the image.  We began with the premise of community and the concept of creation as both a physical act of art making and as in a spiritual belief system. We were examining diversity as it is reflected in our San Antonio population.  We began by referencing Paul Gauguin’s painting, “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” Just as Gauguin investigated the meaning of existence in his 1897 masterpiece we too were investigating our existence but not as individuals, instead we choose to examine our prevailing societal group. We see ourselves as a collection of pasts, of cultures and experiences that becomes an assemblage of ideas which makes up contemporary society.

Our piece explores the transformation that occurred with the merging of Meso-American and European creation myths and cultures in the New World creating a modern hybrid rich with heritage.

San Antonio is one of the oldest Spanish settlements in the country. Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century Texas participated in the Mexican Revolution 1810-1821 and became an active state in Mexico. This is why San Antonio has the highest population of Mexican-Americans in the United States per capita. During the time it belonged to Mexico many European settlers, including some of my ancestors, migrated to Texas to settle accounting for our strong German, Irish, Czech and so-on traditions (they called themselves Texicans.) In 1836 the fight for Texas Independence began, much of it centered on the Battle of the Alamo here in San Antonio, and much of it leaving strong veins of emotions intertwining our people together. In 1848, after being an Independent Republic for ten years, Texas was annexed or bought by the United States, with this came an influx of more immigrants and cultural traditions, more emotions, and a new identity for Texas largely based on the oil, gas, agriculture and cattle industries.  The subsequent revolutions and turmoil in Mexico continued the flow of immigrant and generational influences on Texas culture into present times. These traditions and senses of identity have infused with Native American traditions to create a distinct regional culture.

Paul Karam, Luis Valderas and I explored the richness of our States’ culture through our art. Our idea was to each create an 8’ x 4’ woodcut plate, then cut the plates into three interchangeable pieces allowing the print image to become an intermingling of three artists visions and culminating in over 30 individual prints.  The prints put together, side-by-side resulted in a single evolving representation of creation.

Luis Valderas and I choose to illustrate the question, “Where do we come from?” in our images. Valderas has studied Meso-American iconography for many years and has incorporated his interpretation of the ancient glyphs in most of his work. In his piece titled Chicnauhnepaniuhcan he chose to represent the hero journey of the corn god. 

Chicnauhnepaniuhcan the image explained by Luis Valderas                                                                                          

I am of mostly Western-European descent and have been raised with the stories of my immigrant ancestors and their Protestant Christian beliefs. I choose to use the symbol of the apple in a blue wallpaper format for my version of the image in Original Sin

Paul Karam choose to represent the question “Where are we going?” aspect of the image in his abstracted organic and mechanical forms for his piece entitled Temporal Array.

The remaining question, “What are we?” was addressed through the course of the making of our large-scale print by incorporating teams of participants.  The collective of over 120 volunteers and sponsors became the metaphorical image of what we are. On September 17, 2011 in the parking lot of the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center ((BSCAC) is the acting contemporary art museum of San Antonio Texas, USA. Known simply as Blue Star, it was established as a grassroots response to the cancellation of a contemporary arts exhibit at The San Antonio Museum of Art in 1985. , artists, teachers, students and a slew of community members gathered to help us in the printmaking process. Stations of volunteers were set up under tents for each phase of the procedure.  Separate inking stations were needed for the three-color print equipped with environmentally safe Akua inks.


Original Sin was printed in powder blue as a representation of 18th century Europe, Chicnauhnepaniuhcan was printed in black and Temporal Array in ochre. A paper station was stocked with 9’ x 5’ sheets of Lenox100 paper and Sunset Equipment Rentals generously donated the steamroller used for the press.

Volunteer stations were set up around the perimeter with explanations and information for spectators while local high school art clubs used the opportunity to fund raise by selling t-shirts and paletas-Mexican ice cream bars. Everyone had a specific role and by 2:00 p.m. all 30 prints were completed and laying on the basement floor of the Blue 
Star complex for a two-week drying period.

Phase Two: Public Art Display
Throughout the project filmmaker James Borrego and photographers Luis M. Garza, Irene and David Castillo, and Paul Cruz documented the process.  The goal was to create an educational documentary and get the perfect shot of the public art installation. With the help of Isabel Romero and the San Antonio Independent School District’s Athletic Department we were able to secure Alamo Stadium as the venue for the install.  Alamo Stadium is a historic site in San Antonio with a view of the cityscape on its horizon.  The stadium affectionately nick named “the rock pile” because of its primarily limestone construction was built in 1940 under the Works Progress Administration and about to under go major reconstruction. Therefore we coined our event as “The Last Mile at the Rock Pile”, the “Mile” being the print itself. 

Never before had a Christo-like public art event been organized in Alamo Stadium.  The day was windy and posed some problems with handling the paper prints, but with the help of over 120 volunteers we successfully stretched the 30 prints from goal line to goal line.  

Each print required 2 to 3 people to walk the prints from the staging area, line them down the field and at just the right time raise them for the photo shot. With the city as the backdrop volunteers ranging from city dignitaries like the Mayor Julian Castro to Brackenridge High School students stood in line over the prints.  

It became clear that the art was no longer the print the art was the collaboration and cooperation of the people of San Antonio standing in a row down the center of this football stadium for the single purpose of making art happen. 

The stadium became the representation of a Meso-American temple, and on January 14, 2012, the ancient Aztec day of raising banners to the god Huitzlopochtli (the God of War and Victory in Aztec folklore), at 12:00 noon, the volunteers who had become the art and the artists themselves raised the print.  The sight was spectacular.

The photographs opened for exhibition in February at the Blue Star Lab Space in downtown San Antonio.

Phase 3: Educational Outreach
Our role as artists is to visually educate with our perceptions of the world in which we come from and in doing so reveal the power of art making. I am sure that is why two of us from Art To The Third Power have also chosen to be Art Educators.  Abraham Maslow wrote, “The Musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” (Retrieved from He equated this to the purpose of learning; that learning is the path to self-actualization, and the goals of educators should include this process.  Along the same lines, in his theory The Law of Effect, phycologist Edward L. Thorndike says that the Law of Exercise is to strengthen connections through practice, (Retrieved from As educators we understand that teaching does not just take place in the classroom alone, that our students must fully experience to learn fully. In his article, A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview, David R. Krathwohl (2002) lists the highest order of thinking as being to Create, which calls for students to produce something. He asserts that the verb for Create is to write, applying evaluation through creating a written product. In the case of our project my students did write, but they also produced a film, a public large-scale art piece and organized a public art event - thoroughly a real-world application product. 

Throughout the Texas Size Print Project we wanted to educate the public and our students with the process and business by involving them in the creation of the Texas Size Print art piece and by having the students create active participants in the art making process.  Alex Freeman, former Director of Education at Artpace agreed and picked up our Semester Project proposal. (Artpace is a non-profit and public charity contemporary art center in Downtown San Antonio founded in 1995 by Linda Pace. When Kaela Hoskings took over the position at Artpace she helped make it happen by working with my Advanced Placement Art History students. I felt that in order for them to understand artists and the process of making art they had to become artists completely including learning the business of art. Luis Valderas became our Artist in Residence and after presenting the project to my students helped lead them through their own large-scale print event and exhibition.

The process in my class began with basic compacting techniques by identifying student strengths and giving them the corresponding roles specific to those strengths.  We had a filmmaker, a photographer, organizers, designers, writers and presenters.  The class of seventeen was broken into three groups of five and six with the same objectives: design, present, create and exhibit art.  First each group chose a piece of art from art history to represent their message.  Valderas explained that as public artists we want to leave behind a message for the future and asked the students what they wanted to say to future generations.  Working from the historical art piece the students designed there own images for their prints.  The designs were justified in a written explanatory that became the bases for their written proposals.  Like actual public artists the students were required to write and orally present their designs to a panel of professionals for approval.  After looking at examples of professional proposals the students designed and packaged their written proposals and images using the Pages program on Apple Mac. They created power points and practiced their presentations. 

Then in October they presented their proposals to a panel of administrators and Artpace professionals.  For most of them it was their first time to dress professionally and speak publicly.  They were very impressive and every student participated.

With the approval of the student images finalized stage 1 of the classroom component was complete.  Next we became the art makers.  Luis Valderas and myself demonstrated, facilitated and led the students through the process of transferring their images onto 3’x 5’ MDF panels.  Valderas taught them accurate cutting techniques using Ryobi electric plunge routers and a Dremel tool in the wood shop room at the school.  We then met six times after school and on weekends at our artist studio, 3rd Space Art Gallery.  The students ate pizza, documented and carved their plates.  It was dusty and cold but my students were intent on completing their images.

I have never seen students work so diligently to meet their deadline – especially since the deadline was so definite.  They had to be complete by December 10, 2011 because that was the day we were set to print at Artpace. 

Thanks to Holt Equipment and their donation of the steamroller and all of the Artpace San Antonio staff my A.P. Art History students carried out their own large-scale print event in the freezing December weather on the parking lot of Artpace with their parents and our principal, Moises Ortiz, looking on.  Each group worked together as a team to stage, ink, print and hang a total of 12 large black woodcut relief prints.

Joining the Texas Size Print Alamo Stadium installation on January 14, 2012 my students became a part of the public art event by displaying their prints on the field as well.  In addition our student filmmaker and photographers were allowed to shadow the professionals on the field.  These students created their own 8-minute documentary on the process and installation of their prints.  They interviewed participants including the Mayor and premiered their film at the Texas Size Print exhibition at the Blue Star Lab.

After the ink dried they painted and sealed their plates with acrylic and polyurethane. The printing plates are permanently hung in the main downstairs corridor of Brackenridge High School along with plaques with their names and a synopsis of each of the images.  My students became actual public artists and print makers an experience that made learning intrinsic and taught cooperation, collaboration and the concept that anything is possible.

The 26-minute documentary film by James Borrego premiered at the University of Texas San Antonio along with a display of the prints and the woodcut plates in June 2012.

Because of the cooperation from so many of our fellow San Antonians and organizations such as Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and their MOSAIC program, Artpace, UTSA, San Antonio ISD and the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs, and because of the cooperation of businesses such as Holt, Sunset Equipment Rentals, MK1 Construction Services, Akua Inks and our many other sponsors such as the Peter S. Reed Foundation, our vision was made real. This cooperation and the many individuals who stepped up to participate give us hope and a sense of belonging. 

I have always believed that art is a reflection of and a reaction to the environment of the artist.  In today’s world it would be very hard to create well in isolation. No matter what our endeavor we must interact cooperatively with others in order to be successful. American philosopher Orison Swett Marden stated in the 1930’s, “No employer today is independent of those about him. He cannot succeed alone, no matter how great his ability or capital. Business today is more than ever a question of cooperation. These thoughts are as true when it comes to the making of art as anything else and the need for cooperation and cooperative education has never been more evident.

The Texas Size Print Project is not finished yet. Currently we have expanded our goal to include regions outside of San Antonio. By making the print project global we can increase our community and add a contextual element of location and cooperation to the overall diversity of the work.  We have connected with artists across the world in England and Africa to bring them into the conversation of a collective cooperative, to bring them into the classroom and to expand our own perspectives on art, education and community.

About the Author
Kim Bishop was born and raised in Austin, Texas and is the Mother of two Sons and a recent Grandmother. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, in 1985 with a concentration in Commercial Art.  As a post-graduate, Bishop received her Texas Teaching certifications from SWTSU in 1989.  She currently holds lifetime teaching certifications in All-Level Art, Secondary Art, Secondary History, Classroom Self-Contained with a Reading Content Specialty K- 8 and a Texas State Gifted and Talented Education Endorsement.  She received her Master of Arts in Secondary Curriculum Development with a concentration in Secondary Gifted and Talented Curriculum from Texas State University in 2003. With 25 years of teaching experience under her belt she is currently teaching Art 1, Drawing 2 and Advanced Placement art History at Brackenridge High School in San Antonio, Texas.  Along with her teaching career, Bishop has maintained her career as an exhibiting painter, illustrator, and installation artist. She and her husband Luis Valderas own and operate 3rd Space Art Gallery in San Antonio, exhibiting their own work and featuring guest artists from around the world.

For more information contact Art To The Third


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