UA Printmaking Alumna Makes an Impression

Checa Baldarelli with “Flat Bill” art project.

Our Alumni Spotlight Series focuses on UA art alumni who are in the midst of an art career now, whether they are continuing with schooling or have taken their art skills out into the work world.

UA alumna Francesca Baldarelli’s academic and real-world printing experience has served her well. Two years ago, just out of graduate school at UA in printmaking, Baldarelli (MFA 2018) landed a job as a press assistant and quality control catcher at JnJ Apparel, a T-shirt printing company in Northport, Ala., which has hired several of UA’s newly minted printmakers. This spring, the Pennsylvania native returned to her alma mater, Youngstown State University in Ohio, to teach printmaking as an adjunct. So, when the Hope Center for Arts and Technology, Inc. (known as HopeCAT) in nearby Sharon, Penn., needed someone who could teach both fine art printmaking and T-shirt printing, Baldarelli filled the bill.

Large work room with three large work tables.
HopeCAT printmaking studio. Photo by John Klosterman.

Now, as a full-time Teaching Artist in printmaking and 2D design for grades 9-12, Baldarelli can shape the curriculum – and the workspace. “I am in the process of building out the print shop and printmaking studio, as well as creating online curriculum for a free summer program for grades 5-9 called the COOL PROGRAM, part of HopeCAT’s youth arts program,” she said. “We aim to have the printshop function as a working studio as well as a small business. My goal is to help HopeCAT self-sustain. We want to make prints to sell in a shop, start a small apparel business and a co-op.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has had to make some adjustments. “This was set to be in person but has been changed to remote learning,” Baldarelli said. “We will be teaching pottery, drawing, printmaking and some textile classes over Zoom.” Teaching any sort of art technique remotely has real challenges. How do you print without a press and the other tools? At Youngstown, Baldarelli and her former printmaking professor-now-colleague started a YouTube channel to share techniques with their homebound students and demonstrate printing techniques using materials found at home. Gel plate monoprinting is one method that has eased her novice printmakers without access to a press into the technique. “I held Zoom sessions where I demonstrated printing monotypes with gelli plates and carried that experience over in my teaching and preparing curriculum for the COOL PROGRAM and HopeCAT Youth Arts.”

John Klosterman working in the printmaking room of HopeCAT.

When HopeCAT hired Baldarelli’s former UA classmate, John Klosterman (MFA 2019) for an artist residency this summer, she saw an opportunity to develop the printmaking facilities. Klosterman will be the summer artist in residence in 2D and printmaking through the end of July. While creating his own work, he will also assist Baldarelli in shop development, rebuilding presses and developing curriculum, as well as some social media. Follow Francesca Baldarelli and John Klosterman at HopeCAT on Instagram @hopecat_ya.

For information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.