Steamroller Printmaking Joins the Lineup for "AMA ChalkFest: Heroes" on Nov 19

Staff Report

Friday, September 16th, 2022

In addition to a new downtown Albany location, Albany Museum of Art ChalkFest will offer a new attraction when it returns on Saturday, Nov 19 – printmaking with a steamroller.

“We are always looking for new ways to excite people about art, and printmaking in the street with a steamroller is sure to capture the attention of everyone,” AMA Executive Director Andrew J. Wulf, Ph.D., said. “Chris Johnson created amazing largescale and smaller prints using a steamroller as the press at a Family Day event at the museum in July 2021. We cannot wait to see what he and his group come up with at AMA ChalkFest. His printmaking is sure to be a crowd favorite.”

This year, AMA ChalkFest will be conducted on South Front Street adjacent to the Albany Civic Center and will incorporate Veterans Park Amphitheatre. The event will be 10 am-5 pm, and admission will be free for everyone.

Johnson, who earned his bachelor’s degree and master of fine arts in printmaking at Clemson University said he is happy to be a part of the fifth annual festival that will feature professional and amateur chalk artists, live music, craft beer and libations stations, artists and other vendors, food trucks, and a family activity center.

“I’m stoked,” Johnson said. “I love printmaking and steamrolling. The Albany Museum of Art has always got cool gigs, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

In creating steamroller prints, a large wooden block carved with an image is inked and placed inside a wooden frame on the pavement. Paper or cloth is placed on top of it, along with a felt blanket. Then, Johnson drives the steamroller over the frame, with the pressure created by the rollers transferring the image onto the paper or cloth.

Johnson said he plans to make some big prints with the 4-foot-wide rollers, but also plans to make smaller pieces, which can be printed in multiples. “We even let people ink up their own blocks (at the Family Day event) and they were all into doing it,” Johnson said.

Wulf said the AMA plans to have special tee shirt printings that festival-goers can purchase and take home with them. “Every shirt will be a unique piece of art, a perfect souvenir for what we hope to be the most memorable ChalkFest yet,” he said.

Johnson, director of the Visual Art Program and division coordinator of fine arts at Andrew College in Cuthbert, has done relief printing with steamrollers—which are rarely powered by steam anymore despite the name—for nearly a decade and a half.

“I’ve been doing relief printing since 2005, and I’ve been doing steamroller prints since 2008,” he said. “They’re just really cool. I did them in class. I taught intro printmaking and relief printmaking, and it (steamroller printing) was always a way to captivate the students and make them think big, and think about making art with construction vehicles. It was always exciting for me and exciting for the students.”

Wulf said it will be exciting for festival-goers as well. “This will be a wonderful addition to the traditional chalk art that will continue to be central to ChalkFest,” he said.

Professional chalk artists will create images 49 square feet or larger on the pavement of South Front Street during the all-day festival while visitors watch them work. The theme for this year’s festival is Heroes, inspired by the current AMA exhibition Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice, which is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support provided by Art Bridges.

In Johnson’s Fighters for Freedom series, he painted his heroes, people who fought for civil rights and world peace. At AMA Chalkfest: Heroes, professional and amateur chalk artists are being asked to create images of their heroes.

“We have already confirmed a number of pro artists,” AMA Director of Curatorial Affairs Katie Dillard, who is coordinating the professional artists, said. “Interest has been strong. We will continue to accept applications from pro artists who meet the requirements through the end of September.”

Amateur artists, and school and organizational groups also can sign up for smaller-sized art blocks on the pavement.

“There is no cost for amateur artists to participate, but there is a limited amount of space available,” AMA Director of Education and Public Programming Annie Vanoteghem said. “We are accepting individuals and groups on a first-come, first-served basis as long as space is available.”

Space also is available for artists who work in other media who want to show and sell their artworks, food trucks, and other vendors.

“With AMA ChalkFest: Heroes taking place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the start of the shopping season, this is a great time to get your art and other items out in front of a crowd,” AMA Director of Operations Jazzmond Kendrick said.

For information on AMA ChalkFest: Heroes and links to secure sign-ups for professional and amateur artists, vendors, food trucks, and volunteers, visit