Idea: Customized honor boxes for growing grassroots collaborative newspaper.
Primary artistic medium: 3D visual arts
Although I enjoyed drawing when I was growing up, I never pursued art as a career – I drive a SEPTA bus, actually. Last July, I submitted an illustration to The Local paper that was a nod to July 4th but also a commentary on how “freedom” is not such a guarantee for everyone. They made it that month’s cover, and then every month since then, I’ve had full license to create whatever image I wanted. The editors often don’t even know what I’m working on until I send the finished piece.
My illustrations are the first thing a reader sees when they encounter the paper, so I don’t take my task lightly. Everyone is a process, and I always have to start with thinking about everything going on in the city, and what message do I want to project? What will readers in the coming month need to hear? How can I draw and speak to that? Sometimes there are big feelings we need to sit with, but just as often often my art likes to celebrate and commemorate small but impactful milestones.
Images we see in media are so important, and art is special because it’s an emotional response. I’ve always been a thoughtful person, interested in educating myself and also nurturing the spirit though my connection with God and the community. I pull from all different sources, to come up with my ideas; I may think about an image for weeks before drawing it. Then when I finally see my art on the cover, it’s the best feeling. But it’s also fleeting, because newsprint is so disposable.
A year ago, I’d never have imagined I’d be applying for an art grant, but the moment I saw the theme for Group 2 was “Engagement”, I knew I had to try. My art is created specifically for the community engagement the grant aims to foster; my idea helps me reach more people, not just through artistic newspaper boxes but also every month when a new issue is published.
It would be my dream to inspire more people to be informed about local issues, and to share the importance of art in grassroots journalism.
What’s more engaging than a free local newspaper? Stories and announcements for neighbors, by neighbors. For more than a century, local papers were how people found jobs, apartments, used cars, you name it. Papers printed meeting notices for new businesses and construction, reminders about trash & other municipal functions. Free papers informed and connected residents, so they could engage better socially and civically.
Free papers also documented what it was like, just living as an every day citizen and reacting to current events and social changes. As digital media has overtaken print, we’re losing a unique resource that technology can’t replace. A local paper is a special kind of public space – there are no filters, algorithms or SEO stunts sealing us off from each other. The printed page is, to me, common ground for us all to meet on: writers, artists, readers.
Which is why it’s so exciting to be the cover artist for a free local paper, literally called The Local, which started in East Falls/Germantown but is now the city’s first grassroots news and information collaborative. For my idea, I’d like to draw more attention to this local publication, and encourage more people to submit art, stories, poems, ideas, whatever. To do this, I’d like to customize a dozen newspaper boxes with twelve different illustrations celebrating community engagement thru neighborhood news.
Philly is one of the most segregated cities in the US; I’d like to see this inclusive, independent publication with diverse voices reach and engage new readers (and contributors) though my artwork. My illustrations are uniquely Philadelphian, reflecting current social themes I’d love to develop further in a larger, more permanent medium: social justice, cultural experience, community pride, civic action, and more.
I’d also like to explore how each box might reflect the business or neighborhood its anchored in with local landmarks, historical figures, content creators, etc. This project could easily accommodate multiple artists, too!
Please see the images provided — I’ve included a collage of customized newspaper boxes (for example) and also several of my cover illustrations from the past year. Thank you for your consideration, it is an honor to participate as a Philadelphia artist!