Art students use 1,500-pound steamroller to flatten, finish projects in downtown KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Students at one metro school are proving to be a smash success.

Pedestrians in downtown Kansas City saw what all the smashing was about Friday morning, as students from the Kansas City Art Institute used some heavyweight help to finish their projects, which are now flat-out perfect.

It's been said that art begins with resistance.

At 18th and Main, art was completed with 1,500 pounds of steamroller force. Art students used a huge, yellow steamroller as a giant press for relief wood block design.

Students from the Art Institute have designed a series of large format wood shapes, and the steamroller presses a layer of black ink into a canvas.

"It looks so good," one student could be heard shouting, as another person's project was unveiled. See some of their works in the video player above.

Think of this method of printing as using 5,000 pounds per square inch to make ink prints, in roughly the same way Johannes Gutenberg and Benjamin Franklin did in their day.

KCAI students spent all week crafting their wooden forms in preparation for Friday. When the finished products were peeled away from the wood, it was a pleasing feeling.

"It's a lifelong learning process," Miguel Rivera, Kansas City Art Institute print department manager, said Friday. "They learn to communicate with one another, and each piece is done by two or three students at once. They have to communicate, collaborate and negotiate results."

It was a fun day away from the studio, and most of the students on hand had never driven a steamroller until Friday's event, which was held in the parking lot of Lead Bank. Bank managers have conducted various campaigns to support the arts and art education in Kansas City.

"It's a blast. It's super cool," said Quentin Laurent, a KCAI student. "We can't make prints this big in our studio. Our presses just aren't big enough for it. It's cool to get out here and make big art."

"You just grab onto the steamroller and go 'woo' right over it," Liv Young, another student, laughed. "A lot of people don't know a lot about printmaking. They assume you're talking about prints off a computer. When they see this, and they say, 'this is printmaking,' they say, 'wow!'"

In all, this is the eighth year Rivera and his students have used the steamroller, and for three years running, they've done it in downtown Kansas City.

Art students on hand said they've enjoyed how that's opened a bridge between Kansas City and a world of creativity. School leaders said they allow students to keep a print of their work from Friday, but KCAI retains the wooden block forms so they can be used again.

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