Screen printing at the Kala Art Institute: at its inaugural print festival on Saturday, attendees can try their hand at gelli plate printing, screen printing, or sewing. Credit: Kala Art Institute

The Kala Art Institute is celebrating spring and the art of printmaking by hosting its first ever West Berkeley Community Print Festival this Saturday,  April 15, from 12 to 5 p.m.  

The Institute says it hopes the inaugural festival, which is free to all, will help make printmaking more accessible, and serve as an introduction to Kala and its work for those who haven’t visited before.

“We hope to invite folks to see what we’re about, to sort of leave them wanting to come back to make connections with other artists and artists aficionados and supporters to see our space, and (to) see it as a cultural and meeting space,” said Gisela Insuaste, Kala’s education and public programs director. 

Printing equipment and large drafting tables inside a large studio space
Inside Kala Art Institute in West Berkeley. Credit: Kala Art Institute

The family-friendly festival includes demos from four artists: letterpress specialists Thea Sizemore and Mary Marsh, screen printer Jos Sances, and Leonard Reidelbach, who does watercolor mono-printing. It will also feature a community art workshop where attendees can try their hand at gelli plate printing, screen printing, or sewing. (Some free totes will be available, but organizers recommend people bring their own blank tote or t-shirt as quantities are limited.)

The festival also offers an opportunity for the public to go behind the scenes and watch artists at work at Kala’s 15,200 sq. ft. facility in the historic West Berkeley Heinz building (which was built in 1927 as the Heinz Ketchup Factory). Space is limited to 20 per group for the 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. guided studio tours — you’ll want to get there early if you’re hoping to see their black-and-white darkroom.

Art from Berkeley High School students and local artists will also be on display.

The festival will close with a 4 p.m. panel featuring Susana Aragon, Ester Hernandez, and Josefina Jacquin, three women printmakers featured in the new book Mission Gráfica: Reflecting a Community in Printmaking. The illustrated book tells the story of Mission Gráfica in San Francisco’s Mission District which, for more than 40 years, has served as a community screenprint center and meeting ground for artists and activists.

Insuaste says she hopes the festival will become an annual tradition. 

Screen printing at Kala. Credit: Kala Art Institute Credit: Kala Art Institute

“We don’t want [Kala] to remain a mystery,” she said. “We want to be able to do more of this, opening up our space a bit more, having people sort of experiment and see what they like (and) not being  intimidated.”

Founded in 1974 by Archana Horsting and Yuzo Nakano, Kala started as a residency program in a garage studio with one etching press and one hot plate. Traditionally, printmaking communities have been formed not just because artists wanted to get together and exchange ideas, but also due to necessity; equipment was expensive so artists had to share. “That’s something we want to be able to expand on,” Insuaste said. “How do we share resources and how do we connect?”

Visit Kala Art Institute online for full details of the West Berkeley Community Print Festival and the Mission Gráfica East Bay book launch and panel discussion.

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Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...