The signs are everywhere: banners, posters, placards, postcards protesting the current administration’s policies. Everyone has something to say and wants to be heard, or at least seen. Perhaps you do, too.
Now you have the chance to create your own sign which you can display in a window, carry in a march, or plant in your own front yard. A partnership between two major Philly arts and culture stalwarts, the Kimmel Center and Mural Arts Philadelphia, and the recently formed Signs of Solidarity (which was responsible for 30 banners and signs displayed in protest around Philly during the presidential inauguration) offers you space, materials, and a local artist to offer guidance as you create your own work of protest art.
Dreaming the culture forward
This partnership came about through shared interests. “Our goals are similar,” says Jay Wahl, producing artistic director at the Kimmel Center. All the partners want “to inspire the community to come together, and to use art as a means of change.”
For Wahl, the collaboration was natural. “They have the artists, we have a central location, a place where people come to express themselves,” he said. So instead of offering performances, the SEI studio on the lower level of the Kimmel Center is being transformed into an artists’ studio — a giant playroom filled with fabric and posterboard and paints and people crawling around and creating.
“This is a joy for me,” Wahl said at the first workshop on March 24, as he looked over a room filled with signs that were simultaneously hopeful and resistant. Referencing theater artist Taylor Mac, Wahl said he sees this as a way to “dream the culture forward.”
Embarking on this project, Conrad Benner of Signs of Solidarity was anxious to discourage divisiveness. What he wanted was something “forward-looking and inclusive.” Instead of using the tools of the culture to manipulate a climate of hatred and isolation, added Eric Preisendanz, also of Signs of Solidarity, “We want to empower people to create a sense of unity.”
Nicole Steinberg, media arts director of communications at Mural Arts, participated because she wanted to do something that would “change public space and use art to give people a way to express themselves.”
The signs created at the first of three planned workshops expressed each individual’s own concerns, as well as a large, communal “Science Not Silence” sign destined for Philadelphia’s March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.
Two more free workshops are coming up at the Kimmel (300 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia). On Saturday, April 8, from 2 to 4pm, artist Martha Rich will lead the second workshop, and on Monday, May 1, from 6 to 8pm, Alloyius McIlwaine will lead the third. (You can register in advance for your free spot at the April 8 and May 1 sessions.) Both artists are affiliated with Signs of Solidarity.
If you have something to say and want to say it loud and clear, consider signing up.
At right: Art of the Protest workshop participants make an Earth Day march sign reading "Science not silence." (Photo by Naomi Orwin.)