Copper in the Arts

April 2020

Colleges Get Creative to Bring the Studio Experience Home for Copper Printmaking Students

By Paul David

As people around the world adjust to staying home due to COVID-19, many universities and professors are getting creative with online classes. Sandy Wimer, a Senior Lecturer of Art at Union College in Schenectady, NY wanted to show students that the pandemic is an opportunity to innovate and to appreciate the healing power of art.

Wimer retooled her Printmaking and Etching class as a remote studio experience that can be done without the large and heavy presses in the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts.

natalie-websize.jpgArt student Natalie Berg-Pappertwith her at-home
copper print. 
Photograph courtesy of Union College.

Before the stay-at-home orders were issued statewide, Wimer sent supplies to her 10 students, including ink, copper and plexiglass plates, etching tools, watercolors and paper. Wimer encourages the use of household items, like spoons, to apply pressure required to transfer ink to paper. 

Her class meets in synchronous three-hour Zoom studio sessions where students receive instructions from Wimer, followed by studio time to work on their dry point etchings. 

Throughout the class, Wimer is available to answer questions and help students navigate the copper printmaking process. 

“When they have a question, the rest of the class hears the question and answer,” she said. “They are learning from each other, an important element in a studio class.”

The studio sessions also provides a much needed break, and is therapeutic. 

 “I remind my students that it is healthy to be making art during this time,” Wimer said. “I think it has a healing quality, even when you get frustrated with how an image is emerging.”

Natalie Berg-Pappert, a first-year art major, agrees, and looks forward to her online studio time. 

“Making art has definitely helped relieve my stress, one from the pandemic, but also from my other classes,” she said from her home in Geneva, N.Y. “Art has always provided a release because it allows me to forget about everything that’s been on my mind and just lets me focus on creating the one thing that’s in front of me.”

Julie Lohnes, director of art collections, and Robyn Reed, head of library access services, have created a virtual gallery of work by former students that Wimer uses for instruction.

Wimer invited Lohnes and another colleague, Sarah Schmidt, director of Special Collections, to help with a class on the history of hand-colored etchings using the College’s Birds of America prints by John James Audubon. Wimer hopes students can see the rare originals in Special Collections after pandemic restrictions are relaxed.

For Berg-Pappert, the course came as a relief, and a pleasant surprise in a time of such uncertainty.

“I was very surprised (and excited) to see Sandy’s email before the term, telling us that they were going to send us the supplies for the course,” she said. “I had thought that the course was for sure going to be cancelled, but I was very glad to hear that the College was going to do everything they could to make sure that art classes and other hands-on courses would still happen. This is my first time printmaking and it amazes me that we can still make prints with such minimal equipment. It definitely gives me a larger understanding about the process and a broader appreciation for the discipline.”


Union College, 807 Union St., Schenectady, NY, (518) 388-6112

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