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Arts & Culture

‘State of Urgency’ exhibits local artists’ prints inspired by current social movements

Protest posters distributed on the streets this summer culminate in an exhibition displaying artists’ call to action

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Featuring posters from Rhode Island artist collective Print Live You Give A Damn Press!, the “State of Urgency” exhibit will be on display at the Granoff Center for Creative Arts through December 15.

The “State of Urgency” art exhibition opened in the Cohen Gallery Monday, featuring a collection of “Protest Posters created for the Rhode Island Community” by the Print Like You Give A Damn Press! Collective. The exhibition will not receive any in-person visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it can be viewed through the west-facing windows of the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. 

From the window, a collage of colorful prints and posters can be viewed on the opposing west-facing wall with slogans like “Plan, Strategize, Mobilize,” and “I Wish a Karen Would”, along with monitors screening videos of the artists and their processes. The words “RISE UP” are cleaved by the far wall and face each other on the north- and south-facing walls. Near the window, stacks of prints are available for a closer look. 

Print Live You Give A Damn Press! Collective is a group of local artists who gathered together to support and respond to ongoing social movements artistically. The collective includes Kate Aitchison, Allison Bianco, Raynold (Jacques) Bidon, Julia Brough, Ian Cozzens, Ryan Dean, Tatiana Gómez Gaggero, Lara Henderson, Sara Inacio, Erin Lobb, José R. Menéndez and Nafis M. White.

“I made the call out to a certain group of people that it was to be a collaborative community effort to create work that would deal with and address the pandemic of racial inequality and also COVID, and that was the premise of it,” said White, former community membership manager of AS220. She opened the doors of AS220’s print shop to the collective to create art for the Rhode Island community. 

The artists created several series of works individually that were given away to the broader community at marches and vigils free-of-charge, White said. The art ended up anywhere from bikes and cars to restaurants and coffee shops. 

Menéndez estimates that the collective printed over 10,000 posters this summer.

Menéndez and his wife Gómez Gaggero, both graphic designers, printed and distributed around 4,300 posters to support, empower and educate community members. 

“Since the advent of the printing press, that’s how ideas and that’s how knowledge and that’s how change was really disseminated.” Menéndez said. “Social movements cannot start and they cannot develop, they cannot exist and they cannot be sustained without art and without media.”

The Brown Arts Initiative took notice in the collective’s work and approached White and the collective to ask them to create an exhibition of the work they had been doing over the summer, White said.

The message of the show is to “find your voice and do something; find your voice and say something. And rise up,” White said. “I would say the foundational and fundamental points of the exhibition is to showcase how we have been witnesses and how we have created work and narrative as record keepers. … This is exactly the time that artists come alive.”

“It is an exhibition that showcases the variety of the pieces and parts that created this whole,” she added.

Bidon, who has been an artist and printmaker at AS220 for 11 years, said the collective’s work was a way to “put our voices out there and let people know how we felt about what was going on,” with one issue in particular being systemic racism and inequality. 

Bidon said the public reception to the show has been “really great. It’s always been really great.” Many viewers have reacted positively to the exhibition through social media, White and Bidon said. 

The exhibition is on view through Dec. 15, and featured posters can also be viewed on the BAI website.

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