Exhibition: Celebrate People's History | St. Lawrence University Art and Art History

Exhibition: Celebrate People's History

October 22 - December 13, 2018
Griffiths Arts Center
Richard F. Brush Art Gallery (main gallery)

The Celebrate People’s History posters are rooted in the do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced and distributed political propaganda, but have been re-imagined to embody principles of democracy, inclusion, and group participation in the writing and interpretation of history. Political posters are rarely celebratory, and when they are, they almost always focus on a small canon of male individuals: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara, or Nelson Mandela. Rather than create another exclusive set of heroes, I’ve generated a diverse array of posters that bring to life successful moments in the history of social justice struggles. To that end, I’ve asked artists and designers to find events, groups, and people that have moved forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more equitable and just world. The posters tell stories from the subjective position of the artists, and are often the stories of underdogs, those written out of history. The goal of this project is not to tell a definitive history, but to suggest a new relationship to the past.

Celebrate People’s History posters have been pasted up in the streets of over a dozen cities. Each time I receive emails from people wanting to know more. Our streets can be a venue for asking these questions, and the posters can play a role in answering them. Soon after the first poster was printed, educators began asking for posters for their classrooms. It’s been great to see the posters become part of the curriculum and to see lessons built around them. Once when giving a talk about the project, I was approached by a student in training to become a teacher. She was first introduced to the posters when they hung in one of her grade school classrooms, almost a decade earlier. Now she intends to use them in her future classes. I hope that these posters can continue to act as some small corrective to the dominant narratives told in schools, and that more teachers engage students in alternative ways of understanding the past.

Today Celebrate People’s History posters grace the walls of dorm rooms, apartments, community centers, classrooms, and city streets. Over one hundred different designs have been printed in the past twenty years, adding up to over 300,000 total posters. Although I’ve organized and funded these posters myself, they have always been a collective project. Eighty artists have designed posters; multiple shops have done the printing; dozens of people have run around at night pasting them on the street; and thousands have helped distribute them around the world. For more information, visit https://justseeds.org/project/cph/.

-Josh MacPhee

Josh MacPhee is a designer, artist, and archivist. He is a founding member of the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and the Interference Archive, a public collection based in Brooklyn, NY, of cultural materials produced by social movements. MacPhee is the author and editor of numerous publications, including Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now and Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics and Culture

 

The gallery is free and open to the public. Hours: Monday-Thursday 12-8 pm, Friday and Saturday 12-5 pm. Closed on Sunday.

For more information, contact Catherine Tedford, director, at ctedford@stlawu.edu.