Students screen print for LGBT inclusion, sustainability


Izzy Nuñez

Student-led screen printing spreads social messages on campus.

Walking around Calvin’s campus, it’s clear that there are many clothing styles and ways to express oneself: athletic gear, cute and comfy, or the chance to spread social messages and influence change. Senior graphic design major Izzy Nuñez takes advantage of this opportunity through her screen printing art by putting on free events to spread social messages.

Screen printing is a technique that allows for stenciled designs to be transferred quickly onto fabric. First, the design is created, then printed to become a stencil. Using a mesh screen, ink and a squeegee, the artist transfers the design onto a piece of clothing, a bag or other fabric. 

Nuñez discovered this technique in her freshman year at Calvin through her friend Kelsey Smith, a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, who had done screen printing in high school. After hearing about it, Nuñez was excited to try something new. She began experimenting with this process, having fun with it and doing little projects for friends. 

After seeing a sign on campus saying “LGBT is sin, change my mind,” Nuñez was overwhelmed with “big feelings” towards the situation and wanted to act on it. Encouraged by her graphic design professor, Chris Fox, Nuñez and Smith decided to take the next step and do a screen printing event on campus featuring a design proclaiming: “You are LOVED, WANTED, NEEDED.” They also chose to make this and following events free; people only had to bring their own clothing that they wanted to print on. They did this to promote environmental sustainability, encouraging people to repurpose something they otherwise might throw away.

For Nuñez, this event demonstrated the impact her art could have. 

“I got people coming up to me saying that ‘that saved my life, that print means so much to me,’” Nuñez said. “The most exciting thing is that people can feel safe in their own skin.” 

Since then Nuñez has done other designs for Calvin, including posters for this year’s Dialogue, and will be hosting another event on Oct. 2 for Homecoming weekend. 

Art department Programming Assistant Paula Manni-Pohler has helped Nuñez and her team coordinate these events. Manni-Pohler views screen printing as not only a way to create and express art but also to positively impact and inspire the Calvin community. 

“I definitely think these workshops have impacted students,” Manni-Pohler said. “The literal printed messaging is powerful, the act of making something to wear is empowering, and I think watching a student-organized and led workshop unfold well also signals that ‘hey, you can do this too.’” 

Nuñez doesn’t plan to stop in the future. She dreams of continuing to learn, grow and flourish as an artist and creating conversation through her designs to spread important messages. 

“I don’t think learning is linear and I don’t think it stops,” Nuñez said. “I’m really interested in what I can do next.”