Spread the Message

Pedal Press of Chico…

In 2016, Julia Murphy and Cathryn Carkhuff met while working at the now-closed Chico Peace and Justice Center. They became friends, and over a pizza at Celestino’s, Murphy and Carkhuff realized their shared love of screen printing, which led to an immediate action plan. Carkhuff had a wealth of experience as an organizer and youth facilitator and Murphy had local artsy, maker connections from her nearly two decades of living in Chico. Their combined expertise lent itself smoothly to jumpstarting a creative endeavor. Fueled by their mutual fiery and sometimes impulsive nature, they founded Pedal Press, an artistic outlet for young people. “Other people think before they do things. We just do things,” Carkhuff says with a chuckle.

Photo courtesy of Pedal Press

A collaborative brainchild of theirs was the idea of combining screen printing with bikes. Carkhuff had been part of reviving an inactive screen printing group during her college years in Philadelphia, and her love of the art stayed with her. Murphy says, “Cathryn said, ‘Let’s put it on bikes,’ and I said, ‘I know a dude.’” Their friend retrofitted a few bikes with their necessary equipment, allowing them to “roll in, with these clattering screen printing setups on the back and just crank out a bunch of patches or shirts or signs,” Murphy says. Their first major gig was the Chico Bike Music Festival, where they printed the festival’s design, and from there they brought their live printing setup to many events in the area, as well as offering printing services for custom orders on everything from t-shirts to tote bags.

The heart of the work both founders put into running Pedal Press comes from the desire to bring a creative, empowering space to youth who need it. They see limited art opportunities available to young people, in part because so much institutional support is aimed at competitive sports. “A lot of people aren’t thriving in school because they’re ‘weird,’ or artists. School can be suffocating,” Carkhuff says. To address this, they began hosting mini-workshops at various youth centers, including the Boys and Girls Club and the 6th Street Youth Center.

Photo courtesy of Pedal Press

The killing of Desmond Phillips by police shortly after Pedal Press’s founding deeply affected the team, and it clarified that their initiative was more than just a screen printing venture. They wanted to become a platform for community response, supporting meaningful causes by uplifting and giving a voice to people affected by traumatic events like this one. They make their commitment to solidarity evident by striving to work with people who share their vision and values.

To Murphy and Carkhoff, screen printing was the perfect medium to provide young people with a creative outlet and the tools to express themselves. “We want other people to fall in love with it and realize its power to spread their messages,” Carkhoff says. In the process of screen printing, ink is pressed through a mesh screen to transfer a chosen design onto various materials, such as fabric or paper, creating unique final pieces that blend visual appeal with tactile charm. It’s a very process-based artform, each step being crucial to the finished product. “The reason screen printing is so awesome is that it’s so accessible,” Carkhuff says.

Their work has always been volunteer, and with the sole mission of service and support, Pedal Press became a nonprofit in 2020. They then secured an impact grant from the California Arts Council and introduced an Artists-In-Residence program. A round of artist residencies began in November of this year, and will run through September 2024. Artists will each serve a two-month residency, using the studio and presenting their artwork in the Pedal Press gallery in addition to conducting two free community workshops and joining a final artist pop-up.

Pedal Press has created a studio space where artists, young and old, seasoned and novice, can come together to learn from each other and share in the imperfect, messy process of artistic creation as a way to express internal goings-on, or simply enjoy the delight of the process. As Murphy muses, “The best thing about screen printing is community.”

Pedal Press will host a week-long youth workshop in June 2024. Keep an eye out on their website and socials for signup information. •

Pedal Press, Chico •
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Article Written by:

Eythana Miller writes at every opportunity and tapes poetry to her bedroom ceiling. She loves black tea, Lemony Snicket and sunny afternoons.

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