Students in Harjit Singh’s printmaking class at Hauser Junior High in Riverside aren’t just making pretty pictures, they are creating works of art that will be sold to benefit two children’s charities.
Since the second trimester began in January, the eighth-graders have been busy crafting block prints, using the work of the Haida — the native people of the Pacific Northwest — as their inspiration.
Beginning Feb. 27 and running through the month of March, those prints will be on display at a LaGrange restaurant. And all of the work will be for sale, said Singh, in order to benefit Jen’s Kids, a charity for children under hospital care founded by the Riverside Arts Center, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
On Feb. 27, 24 students and 14 Hauser faculty members will eat dinner at the restaurant for the show’s “opening.” Afterward, interested buyers make a purchase for $50 apiece.
“Anyone can purchase them,” Singh said. “And there’s just a limited number, so once they’re purchased, that’s it.”
According to Singh, 100 percent of all of the money raised will go to the charities.
It’s not the first time Singh’s students have raised money for Jen’s Kids. Work was sold at the school’s open house for the charity in the past. The connection to St. Jude’s is through one of Singh’s fellow teachers, who raised money for the hospital as part of a road race last year.
“Hauser has been like that,” said Singh. “The teachers step up to give back quite a bit. It’s one thing I love about Hauser and the students here.”
The student work will be hung on the walls of Kama Indian Bistro, 9 S. LaGrange Road in LaGrange. It’ll actually be the second time Singh has displayed his work at the restaurant. Last year the art work had an Indian theme.
“The owner said last year customers were asking if the work was for sale. He said, ‘Why don’t you sell them?'” Singh said.
“I said, ‘Sure,'” Singh added, “but I want the money donated.”
When the eighth-graders enter Singh’s classroom, he doesn’t have to say a word. The students grab their supplies — the linoleum panels they’re carving designs into, ink, rollers and paper — and get to work.
Last year Singh also had students work with block prints, but he streamlined the assignment this year. Students are working in just two colors and the subject matter is Haida-inspired, though they’re not restricted to Haida subject matter.
Chloe Marrello, for example, created a design based on the human heart. It almost looks like a woodblock print from a 16th century anatomy book, except for the clearly Haida-inspired animal figures in the heart’s ventricles.
“I wanted to incorporate the animals so it still has a feel for Haida art,” said Marrello. “But it’s different and has my own personality.”
Meanwhile, Massimo Flight has just peeled a sheet of paper off his linoleum tile. His design is more traditional, a grizzly bear. But this particular print isn’t a keeper — the color registration is off. It wasn’t lined up correctly, because he used a different sheet of paper to set his tile.
“You need to use the same thing the whole time or it’ll be way off, like this,” he said.
With time running short in the class period, he’ll have to make another print next time.
Emily Tong is particularly ambitious. Her linoleum tile is twice the size of other students. As a result, it’s taken her two weeks to carve out her design and she’s inking up for the first time.
“I’m a little nervous,” Tong said. “There’s a lot of ink, because it’s a lot bigger.”
When she peels off the sheet of paper, it’s clear it’s going to take more than one run-through.
Singh, who gives pointers to students as he circulates among them, said he likes that Tong took up a challenge with her print.
“I say, ‘Please challenge yourself. This is what it’s all about,'” said Singh. “I tend not to tell them, ‘This is the project.’ When you do that, you limit creativity. Allowing that freedom helps out in the classroom.”
The most satisfying part of the project, said Kaitlin Gaynor, is when you’re done carving and you finally pull the paper away from the inked-up panel.
“When you peel off the paper, it’s cool to see how it turned out,” Gaynor said.
While the process of creating the prints seems complex at first, it’s not too difficult, said Jane Frank.
“It’s fun and easy — it’s not too complicated,” Frank said. “And even if it’s not perfect, it still looks really cool.”