Andrew Thompson

Marcy Cassidy-Mapp, Staff Writer

Liv Hage

When Andrew Thompson `23 left the suburbs of Oklahoma to visit the Grinnell College campus in Iowa for the first time, he was not sure what to expect. But despite the cold winters and cornfields, Thompson has found himself making more of a mark on campus than he anticipated.

The older brother to three sisters, Thompson has found his passion in the arts, particularly printmaking and tattooing. His proficiency in various art styles recently earned him the College’s Fourth-Year Art Prize at the annual Bachelor of Arts Exhibition based on a portfolio of submissions from his previous exhibits.

 However, printmaking is where Thompson has truly found his niche. He mainly focuses on relief printmaking, but he has experience with engraving and etching as well. Thompson plans to specialize in lithography, an older form of printmaking where the artist chemically alters stone and draws on it with oil crayons before chemically treating the entire surface.

“For a long time, I did mostly painting and drawing, and I started to get into filmmaking and digital art because of that. But then in my first semester back [on campus], I took a printmaking course and then fell in love with it, and have been doing printmaking now for, like, 14 months.”

Owen Barbato

 Thompson has also undertaken a project to renovate an antique letterpress from the early 20th century with help from Jillian Bhuyan `23. After a lengthy process of cleaning, repairs and preliminary typesetting, the pair plans to eventually print a zine composed of their friends’ poetry and a few linoleum prints.

 Despite the pandemic, Thompson had the opportunity to study abroad in Germany during his second year through the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). Thompson never physically attended Humboldt University in Berlin, as the professors from Humboldt came to teach at the IES study center. In fact, after the program, Thompson managed to end up 12 credits short of a completed German studies major and officially declared.

Thompson’s most beloved relief piece is titled “Berlin,” representing his time abroad through a mix of static and moving elements as well as improvisational and planned mark-making. He explained that he did not want the piece to be only about his study abroad experience, but he could not help but be inspired by the train stations in Berlin.

If you catch a glimpse of Thompson or his girlfriend Anna Wilson `23, then you are sure to see more of Thompson’s inspired artwork since he is also an avid local tattoo artist. Starting as a first year, Thompson’s close friends were the first canvases he practiced on before eventually tattooing strangers and acquaintances. He notably uses a pay-as-you-can system which allows patrons to defer payment until their earliest convenience.

“I’m not recommending other people do this, but I did a lot of research on how to do it safely,” Thompson said. “I also happened to have a lot of friends that were either gracious or dumb enough to let me practice on them.”

I want to see people at Grinnell feeling empowered to start their own things, not feeling like they need permission from SGA or administration to start organizations.

— Andrew Thompson

 Thompson is also involved in student advocacy and labor organizing on campus, serving as a member of both the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers organizing and bargaining teams. He said he believes that student organizing can be a powerful force on campus, and he is committed to making it more accessible. Thompson said he believes that Grinnell’s history of advocacy is recent, and he said there is a need for more student involvement to create a more equitable campus community.

 “I want to see people at Grinnell feeling empowered to start their own things, not feeling like they need permission from SGA or administration to start organizations,” Thompson said. “There’s so much power in student organizing.”