Artists call for change

By Luke Wilusz

One poster urges charitable passers-by to donate cigarettes to those who have run out. Another commands viewers to “save the branches” as a part of a campaign to preserve the public library system. A third appears to be taken directly from a dystopian work of science fiction, advising couples thinking about having children to “do it legally” and apply for birthing permits from the “United States Committee on Population Control.”

“Printervention: Printing for the Public” is an exhibit of posters and print art by various artists from across the country. The exhibit, which opened April 16 at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph St., comprises a collection of posters designed to advocate social and political causes both real and fictional.

“The direction that we gave them was to create social and political posters about issues of our day, anything they were passionate about or they felt was relevant to the political and social atmosphere,” said Emily Clayton, who co-organized the exhibit along with fellow artists Ed Marszewski and Chris Roberson.

The artists were free to address topics as serious or lighthearted as they wanted, with the only directive being each poster had a message.

“You could see everything from local activist battles in terms of privatization of our water, to the use of coal and tar sand,” Marszewski said. “So, highly charged political issues to some pretty mundane stuff.”

The exhibit was inspired by the public works programs that occurred during the Great Depression, which involved the government hiring artists to promote government programs and re-energize the economy.

Clayton said the currently troubled economic climate inspired the organizers to explore similar ideas today.

“We thought it was an opportune time to look back at what [Franklin D. Roosevelt] had done for the arts during that time period because it’s unprecedented,” Clayton said. “Never before or never since has that sort of support been given to the artistic community.”

She said she hoped the exhibit would bring public attention and appreciation to the kinds of work Chicago artists created.

“I hope it inspires city officials and people to take that under consideration in their funding and really think about supporting artists as workers and as members of the community that can give back and be an asset to society,” Clayton said.

“Printervention” is part of the 10th annual Version Arts Festival, which is organized by the Public Media Institute, a non-profit art organization based in Chicago. Several workshops relating to print-based art will be held during the festival in conjunction with the exhibit.

These workshops include an April 26 bookmaking class at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery; a tour of Columbia’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, which begins at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery on April 28; and a mobile silkscreen printing cart in Millennium Park, which will allow members of the public to create their own printed art.

“We’re trying to demonstrate the ease and the kind of utilitarian nature of printing to the public,” Marszewski said. “I think that’s the best thing we could offer art enthusiasts and just the average person walking by.”

Marszewski said one of his goals in organizing “Printervention” was to get artists interested in social causes and to foster collaboration between artists and

activist groups.

“What we’re mostly interested in doing, eventually, is connecting graphic designers or artists with nonprofit activist groups to help them with their communication strategies in general,” Marszewski said.

Jason Teegarden-Downs, whose graphic studio Delicious Design League has a poster featured in “Printervention,” agrees that activist groups, or anyone with a message to spread to the public, need artists’ help.

“Any way you look at it, if they want to put a message out to the public, be it a poster or an advertisement or a radio ad, at some point there’s an artist involved,” Teegarden-Downs said.

Marszewski said the “Printervention” exhibit will begin a tour of the United States once its Chicago run is over, beginning with a display at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Mich., from June 22-26.

“Printervention” will be on display through May 4 at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph St., Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. To learn more about the exhibit or the Version Arts Festival, visit or