href="http://www.rit.edu/" Introduction of RIT Printmaking




Why Non-Toxic Printmaking?

Printmaking is a widely practiced aspect of visual art and art education that has historical roots going back hundreds of years. Almost every well known artist in the history of art including such artists as D?er, Rembrandt, Goya, Degas, Picasso and Warhol made great works of art through printmaking media. Unfortunately there is a
technical legacy handed down through centuries of highly toxic printmaking practices that have led to the untimely deaths of many printmakers and to the decline of the practice of printmaking.

Health and safety regulations, as applied to the workplace, were designed primarily for industry rather than educational institutions. Due largely to the presence of industrial health and safety standards and monitoring agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA university staff and students were able to seek external support for forcing their institutions to comply with health and safety standards. Unfortunately many institutions only responded to health and safety issues after a staff member or students health and safety were
compromised. Other institutions employed safety officers who either became the printmakering instructors arch enemies or saviours depending on their response to innovation and change. There are still many institutions practicing archaic and dangerous printmaking techniques who survive simply because no one has "blown the whistle".


Responsible educational establishment had to re-evaluate the manner in which art students and staff worked with dangerous chemicals and solvents used in traditional printmaking media. One way that institutions dealt with the problem of airborne toxins was to instigate controlled working methods and to exhaust dangerous chemicals out of the class rooms or art studios with expensive fume extraction systems often costing more than $200,000. For those institutions who could afford the expense they were required to conform to Federal health and safety legislation which meant spending thousands of dollars equipping their class rooms and art studio's with expensive fume extraction systems. If government guidelines were followed to the letter this extravagant measure made these class rooms safer for handling toxic chemicals (such as nitric acid) but the net result was that these
airborne poisons were vented into the environment. In most instances all noxious and toxic airborne contaminants were exhausted into the environment without any filtration. The full question of environmental impact and responsibility were not fully addressed with these health and safety measures.

We believe that it is far better to implement safer printmaking techniques than to spend thousands of dollars in fume exhaust systems which enable students to work with toxic chemicals in a safer manner. By teaching toxic traditional printmaking techniques within art studios and class rooms that were well equipped with expensive fume extraction systems leads to the question of subject redundancy. If students learn toxic traditional printmaking techniques under these highly controlled conditions how are they expected to "safely" pursue this art form outside the controlled confines of the educational establishment.

Health, Safety and the Environmental Imperative

The School of Art at R.I.T. specializes in non-toxic printmaking techniques as an integral part of the fine art course offering. This addresses the question of health and safety, environmental consciousness, subject redundancy while offering the latest in technical innovation. R.I.T has made a commitment to become a world focal point where professional printmakers and teachers can learn to apply non-toxic printmaking techniques in both the educational and professional environment.


We believe that the principal by which we stand has a great long term social benefit because it represents one institution's efforts to contribute to a cleaner environmental. Our program strikes at the very heart

the need for dynamic cultural/artistic activity while addressing the concept of lifelong learning in the midst of continuous change. The mandate of the Non-Toxic Printmaking Program at R.I.T. addresses the universal shift towards health and safety consciousness in the classroom/studio while offering our graduates potentially new avenues of employment. As non-toxic printmaking infiltrates the art education world there will be more and more demand for highly trained and educationally certified specialist within this field.


We are responding creatively and effectively to the important choices we face as a society in reconciling cultural and educational needs with the environmental imperative. The non-toxic printmaking choice offer artists a far greater range of creative possibility whilst increasing their artistic productivity. This increase in productivity
must have a very positive cultural and economic ripple effect for both artists and galleries.

Our leadership role will serve as an example of our willingness to reverse the direction of the ecological devastation that effects us all. Furthermore we are deeply concerned with the worldwide cultural impact of the pending extinction of the art of printmaking because of its historically bad health and safety record. We have
established a precedent and a model for change that will serve as an example to the rest of the world.