By Sarah Stortz
Local printmakers in Iowa City provided the necessary tools for social-justice activists to create resistance images Tuesday night.
Public Space One hosted its first Potluck Print Protest, a political printing party for residents to print their own signs. Attendees also brought their own food.
May 1 was selected as the date in light of International Workers’ Day, celebrate the working class and laborers’ rights.
Described as “a printmaking open house” by John Engelbrecht, the director of Public Space One, the background behind the event stretches a year and a half.
Last year, shortly after the inauguration of President Trump, Public Space One held the Near Future exhibition, which included artwork focusing on political resistance.
Afterwards, organizers realized that resistance imagery can bring a community together.
“We had a bunch of events related to resistance,” Engelbrecht said. “It was really successful, and it felt good to do this as a community event.”
A printmaker himself, Engelbrecht said he could see the need of protesters putting their political voice on a visual platform.
“[The events] were to both commiserate with [the activists] but also organize those thoughts to make it into a graphic,” Engelbrecht said.
Being open to a “agitprop generation,” participants were free to create their own form of political propaganda. While acknowledging the word has had a negative connotation, Engelbrecht said he finds it unfortunate how so many people look down on propaganda.
“I think that we’re influenced by propaganda for some form of another, whether you call it advertising or news,” he said. “It’s messages of one power to another. If people find these terms negative, I think that’s an interesting conversation to have.”
Carla Bryant, a printmaker and member of the Iowa City Press Co-op, said she enjoyed the inclusiveness of different viewpoints.
“I like how you can kind of pick what you want to protest,” Bryant said. “I like the fact we can come together and be individuals but be together. We can make our positions known without being discriminated against.”
Jenny Gringer, another printmaker, did a majority of the carving artwork at the event.
“It’s the medium I use,” she said. “I’m able to use text and carving, so it works pretty well for me. When I want to make a sign, I can share it with other people because we can do mass printing.”
“The idea is, people should have a voice in their politics,” Engelbrecht said. “If you have to create that on a grass-roots level, so be it.”
The overarching mission for the Potluck Print Protest is for political activists to use their signs.
“The main thing for us is we hope to print and get these to get these out to the world,” Engelbrecht said. “If we can produce something other people want, that’s the main goal. We’re producing a thing we’re feeling good about.”
There will be another Potluck Print Protest on May 10.