By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Print education programs combine lessons, support services, and equipment training to educate students on effective digital printing practices. These programs are also known for promoting other disciplines that coexist with printing such as writing, photography, and publishing.
The Writers Room
Founded in 1891, Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA is one of America’s 15 largest private universities. With over 24,000 students, it offers undergraduate, graduate, and adult education programs in a variety of majors.
Its Writers Room is a university community literary arts program engaged in creative placemaking and art for social justice. The students are a diverse, intergenerational group of high school and college students as well as older community residents.
In May 2017, Drexel University met with Ryan DeVito, senior program manager, Canon Solutions America, and the Canon Solutions America team to discuss the company’s Future Authors program. Future Authors is a free program offered in partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County, FL. Created to help inspire students with a passion for writing, the program provides students with insight into the process of writing, editing, and digitally publishing books through instruction by certified teachers, interactions with Canon experts, and insight from local published authors.
“What began as a conversation about Future Authors quickly became a collaborative partnership as we developed the concept for TRIPOD,” says Rachel Wenrick, director, Writers Room and associate teaching professor of English, Drexel University.
TRIPOD is a year-long project bringing together six groups of three writers—drawn from the community, the university, and local high schools. The writers work in-residence in Drexel University’s studio space as well as in workshops at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships—Drexel’s urban extension center—at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and on photography shooting field trips throughout the city. Using writing and photography, the writers tell stories of their lives and neighborhoods while demonstrating the desire for collaborative opportunities in joint communities.
According to Wenrick, the TRIPOD project grew out of Canon Solutions America’s desire to bring about more strategic partnerships on campus, as well as to support Drexel University’s mission to engage meaningfully with the community and students.
The TRIPOD program’s first year included a variety of participants including two Drexel faculty members, 15 Canon U.S.A., Inc. and Canon Solutions America staff, one ArtistYear fellow, six Drexel students, six high school students, and six older community residents for a total of 36 people.
The program’s emphasis is on visual and written creativity and expression. “Print/graphics are essential for us as a medium for those forms. Though we live in a digital age, there is nothing that replaces the book or a print photo as an object,” says Wenrick. “It sounds simple but seeing the first prints come in and get pinned up all over the walls was transformative—both for our studio space and our program. The book and photos are proof of our existence.”
With the exception of two students—a photography major and a photo minor—students of the TRIPOD program had no experience working with high-end cameras. The Canon team provided training and expertise for all participants throughout the year.
Another challenge during the course was coordinating everyone’s busy schedules. According to Wenrick, the participants overcame that by meeting whenever it worked for the writers—mostly weekends.
The TRIPOD program’s newest equipment addition—courtesy of Canon Solutions America—is a Pixma Pro-100 photo printer. “This program exposes students and community residents to a technology they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. The cameras, photos, and printed materials gave everyone a boost of confidence and urged them to do their best work. They also felt a responsibility to themselves and to each other,” explains Wenrick.
To commemorate the participants’ achievements, a gallery exhibition and book reading took place in June 2018 at the Free Library of Philadelphia followed by the Writers Room Anthology 4 Book Release at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships at Drexel University.
The Canon team printed the large format photos for the TRIPOD exhibit—People, Places, Portraits—with the Canon imagePROGRAF 9400 on Canon Satin Photographic Paper. This device was selected to highlight and feature the students’ work.
Canon Solutions America supported the printed book’s creation and other physical manifestations of the project in order to provide a tangible product for everyone who spent time and energy creating its contents, says Wenrick.
“They’ve put so much of themselves into this, so to give them something real and tangible and show them they’re published authors gives participants something more than they would get in a digital format alone,” offers DeVito.
Thanks to the success of the program, Drexel University and Canon Solutions America will continue to expand the TRIPOD program at Writers Room for its second year.
Educational programs, like Future Authors and the TRIPOD spinoff help prepare students with real-world experience. The print industry benefits as it attracts fresh talent to the graphic arts. dps
Nov2018, DPS Magazine