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FREE Steamroller Printing Festival

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Ever seen art made by steamroller? Now you can. Welcome to the 9th annual Roadworks festival, where, in short, talented woodcutters and print makers create large linoleum blocks, lay them out on Rhode Island street in Potrero Hill, and drive a 3 ton steamroller over them.

And it isn’t just a cool concept. The San Francisco Center of the Book is celebrating freedom of speech, and bringing attention to an accessible, long-popular kind of political art. As printmaker
Favianna Rodriquez says in their promo video, “I’m really happy that there’s a public event where people can be part of the art-making process… Linoleum block printing, because it’s so accessible, has been used by communities around the world as a tool for social justice.”

I had the chance to hear from Linda Marshall, and hear more about the event.

Me: How did you originally get the idea?

Linda: In 2004, the idea of a steamroller printing festival was first presented to the San Francisco Center for the Book by co-founder Mary Austin, who had heard of a similar event in New England. Board member Nancy Coopersmith enthusiastically took on researching and developing the project for SFCB, and on Saturday, October 30, 2004, Roadworks was born.

Over 500 people attended the inaugural event, held in the middle of Carolina Street between 15th and 16th Streets. The Center devoted four tables to printing “Side Shows,” including SFCB’s home team of Austin and Burch as The Original Printed Ladies of San Francisco, handing out typographic tattoos and the occasional kiss. Each steamroller print pulled off the street was accompanied by musical fanfare by the (clothed and costumed) Burning Band from Burning Man.

The idea behind the festival was to bring the community closer to the printing process by allowing all ages to witness, enjoy and participate in the power of printing on a grand scale. Despite how the wind tunnel effect on Carolina Street threatened to make each print take flight, the event stuck. Past board member Thacher Hurd even said it was the best day of his life!

What’s been your favorite thing about Roadworks over the years? What are you most looking forward to this year?

It is always so exciting to see what the artists create and how the works appear when printed via the “steamroller” on Rhode Island Steet. These highly limited edition prints are special, magical, memorable and are like no other gallery quality prints available.

How are the artists selected?

There are five featured artists. This year, two of them are “wildcard artists” who submitted their work the the SFCB Roadworks panel to be considered as a Roadworks artist. There were so many great submissions that two artists were chosen.

It all happens this Saturday afternoon, folks!

Roadworks: A Steamroller Printing Festival
September 22nd
Rhode Island Street between 16th and 17th


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Scott James - Paperback Pundit

Scott James - Paperback Pundit

Author of Sidewalk Ritual, self-publishing teacher, lover of coffee and IPA.

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