Courtesy of Shaun Slifer
From Norman Rockwell’s engaging covers for “The Saturday Evening Post” to J. M. Flagg’s patriotic image of Uncle Sam, printmaking has long sat side by side with social activism. These graphics, as well as countless others, have shaped our country’s outlooks and values, have inspired others to follow in their footsteps and create activist prints of their own.
Justseeds Collective is scheduled to visit Ohio State Friday to discuss and showcase its works and social activism campaigns. The speakers, which will include Justseeds members Shaun Slifer and Mary Tremonte, will focus their talk on the organization’s current and past works with Occupy Wall Street and the recent labor uprisings in Wisconsin.
The OSU Social Justice Alliance and the Comparative Studies Undergraduate Student Group organized the artist’s presentation, which will be held in Hagerty Hall 180 at 6 p.m.
Justseeds, founded by Josh MacPhee in 1998, is a working group of 26 artists and graphic designers from across North America. The group strives to highlight the historical role of printmakers in different social and environmental movements.
“Typically, art in the broadest sense doesn’t necessarily get thought of as a relative ingredient to social movements,” Slifer said. “We want to bring back history of that and talk about how important graphics can be to frame social and environmental movements. Good art and good graphics are about getting people to think, to further educate about the issue.”
Justseeds’ artists come from many backgrounds, politically and artistically. While they might agree on the importance of graphics in activism, they don’t all agree politically on every issue.
“Politically speaking, everybody comes from some type of variant activist work on the left end of the spectrum,” Slifer said. “We don’t always agree on every issue, though artistically, we’re even more variant.”
Although many of Justseeds’ artists went to art school, others are self-taught.
Some “just kind of picked up graphics as an element of activist work they were already doing,” Slifer said. Whether classically trained or not, Justseeds’ artistic standards are always high.
“Our artists do the majority of printing by hand,” Slifer said. “We sometimes use digital graphics for widely distributed works, but we mostly work with hand, letterpress and block printing.”
This will be the first artist presentation the group has collaborated on and put together. It normally joint-hosts film screenings or other presenters speaking on current issues with political, cultural or religious significance.
“I heard about them through a friend and started keeping up with their blog that documents their different projects,” said Andrew Culp, president of the OSU Social Justice Alliance and adviser to the Comparative Studies Undergraduate Student Group. “Justseeds has been doing some really popular art, most notably about Occupy Wall Street. Hagerty’s lecture hall sits 120, so we’re expecting an attendance of about 60, but hoping for 100.”
The groups will hold an after party starting at 9 p.m. at the Sporeprint Infoshop, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit social center, located at 172 E. 5th Ave. There will be refreshments and two DJs, one local to Columbus and another Justseeds will bring from Pittsburgh.
“The after-party will give people the opportunity to interact with the artists and others who went to the discussion,” Culp said. “It should be a lot of fun, and Justseeds will be giving out copies of the posters they’re showing at the presentation.”
A free workshop with the presenting Justseeds members is scheduled to be held the following day at the Shout Out Loud Prints print shop from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. While the specifics of the workshop are “still in the works,” Slifer said, attendees can expect instruction and demonstration on basic screen printing and how to start printing on a minimal budget.
“There are not a lot of other organizations who do what we do in the United States,” Slifer said. “We always hope we’ll get other people motivated and excited about art and printmaking, to get people to participate and start cooperatives and start getting the issues they are passionate about out there.”