Students milled around the tables, ink-stained hands searching for the perfect print block. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they took turns using the ink rollers and waited patiently for a space to lay their tote bag, T-shirt, or mask.

The atmosphere outside the Benjamin E. Mays Center was happy and friendly, as students traded compliments and encouragement back and forth. Peppy pop music poured from the speakers, and despite the strong breeze threatening to blow paper and shirts everywhere, the event was a huge success.

This is the third year the “Stringfellows” — students working with Multifaith Chaplaincy in the spirit of William Stringfellow ’49 — have coordinated their Free Press social justice printmaking event, and each time, more students participate. According to Brittany Longsdorf, Bates’ multifaith chaplain, around 150 people came to the event to make prints this year.

Join us for Free Press on Friday, October 1st from 3:00pm-5:00pm outside of the Benjamin Mays Center.

Printmaking at Free Press involves rolling ink out onto stamps carved by a variety of talented Bates artists and using those stamps to make designs on the canvas of your choice. We’ll provide limited quantities of paper, fabric masks, and canvas tote bags to print on, you bring whatever else is in need of artistic embellishment (t-shirts? jean jackets? your roommate’s bedspread?). No prior art experience or skill is necessary—we’ll have artists there to guide you through the printmaking process.
A student presses down an inked block onto a tote bag at the Free Press social justice printmaking event on Oct. 1, 2021. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

“It’s just gotten bigger and bigger over the years,” Longsdorf says. “I’m just sort of the memory keeper of how it runs, and then [the Stringfellows] choose whether or not they want to run it, and how they want to run it.”

Stringfellows help organize opportunities for activists to connect with each other on campus, and reflect on their work. The events are all about “helping them find practices and spaces to root and remind themselves why they do this important work that can transform the world,” Longsdorf says.

Dianna Georges ’22 of Clifton, N.J., is a Stringfellow, and was helping sign students in to the event. Georges has been attending the event since her first year. “I feel like this is one of the first places that I started meeting different organizers on campus,” Georges said. “I think it’s really cool because the sophomores and the first-years, they haven’t had the chance to do something in-person.”

Join us for Free Press on Friday, October 1st from 3:00pm-5:00pm outside of the Benjamin Mays Center.

Printmaking at Free Press involves rolling ink out onto stamps carved by a variety of talented Bates artists and using those stamps to make designs on the canvas of your choice. We’ll provide limited quantities of paper, fabric masks, and canvas tote bags to print on, you bring whatever else is in need of artistic embellishment (t-shirts? jean jackets? your roommate’s bedspread?). No prior art experience or skill is necessary—we’ll have artists there to guide you through the printmaking process.
Students make room for each other at the table as they decorate tote bags and T-shirts at the Free Press social justice printmaking event on Oct. 1, 2021.
(Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

“I think that symbols are important,” Georges said. “And I think this is an opportunity for people to put the symbols of what they believe up. It’s kind of the same thing as hanging a flag; it shows what you believe in, so I hope people just make a bunch of shit and hang it everywhere, and it just becomes a part of the ethos of campus.”

The print blocks are handmade by Bates students and given to the event. The general theme of “social justice” allows for artistic license, and means different things to different students. From images of trees evoking eco-justice, to phrases of self-empowerment and statements challenging social structures — “F— White Supremacy” — students shared their messages with each other and the Bates community.

Join us for Free Press on Friday, October 1st from 3:00pm-5:00pm outside of the Benjamin Mays Center.

Printmaking at Free Press involves rolling ink out onto stamps carved by a variety of talented Bates artists and using those stamps to make designs on the canvas of your choice. We’ll provide limited quantities of paper, fabric masks, and canvas tote bags to print on, you bring whatever else is in need of artistic embellishment (t-shirts? jean jackets? your roommate’s bedspread?). No prior art experience or skill is necessary—we’ll have artists there to guide you through the printmaking process.
“Less Locks More Keys” proclaims one block print at the Free Press event on Oct. 1, 2021. The social justice-themed print blocks were designed and carved by students. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Stella Santucci ‘22, a psychology major from Falmouth, Maine, has participated in the event every year. “This is my favorite event on campus,” Santucci said. “It’s super fun, and it’s artistic freedom. The topic is ‘social justice’ but it’s up to you to kind of build an idea and execute it. I think it’s a place for students to connect and help each other, and be activists together.”

The Multifaith Chaplaincy provides the rubber blocks and tools to students, who then come up with a design to carve, and give the finished block back to the organizers for students to use.

Santucci makes a block for the event every year, and then always attends. “The fact that I get to just choose what I do and then come here and see everyone else’s, I think is really amazing,” Santucci said. “[It’s] what Bates is really all about.”

"This message is more than just three words. To grow, evolve, and transform means to accept and embrace the path you were meant to be on in order to grow as an individual and change the world around you."
Thank you for this opportunity! I hope this can reach people. Let me know if you need anything else. “
Sincerely,
Elena Valle ’25 of Damascus, Md.

Join us for Free Press on Friday, October 1st from 3:00pm-5:00pm outside of the Benjamin Mays Center.

Printmaking at Free Press involves rolling ink out onto stamps carved by a variety of talented Bates artists and using those stamps to make designs on the canvas of your choice. We’ll provide limited quantities of paper, fabric masks, and canvas tote bags to print on, you bring whatever else is in need of artistic embellishment (t-shirts? jean jackets? your roommate’s bedspread?). No prior art experience or skill is necessary—we’ll have artists there to guide you through the printmaking process.
Elena Valle ’25 of Damascus, Md., displays a print with a message that’s “more than just three words,” she says. “To grow, evolve, and transform means to accept and embrace the path you were meant to be on in order to grow as an individual and change the world around you.” (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
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