I don’t often get political, nor do I write about it. But I have found an intersection of letterpress and politics that seems worth mentioning in today’s disastrous economic climate.
Recently ‘Obama for America’ held an art contest to find a poster to promote the American Jobs Act. For those who don’t know, the American Jobs Act is a bill that President Obama proposed to Congress in mid-late 2011 that would create a lot of new jobs through infrastructure projects and tax cuts (I’m not quite sure how the tax cuts will put people back to work, but it is part of the bill). And anything that helps put Americans back to work is a good thing in my book. In any case, Congress has yet to pass it.
So, the Obama campaign designed a contest wherein artists could submit posters that show support for the American Jobs Act. Here’s where the letterpress come in. The winner of the contest is Philadelphia artist, Amanda Benton. Her poster was inspired by antique letterpress broadside posters.
Benton explained her stylistic choice: “The whole idea was to bring more attention to the American Jobs Act and get people involved. And the text on my poster included all the themes we could choose from. I like the whole idea of [the American Jobs Act]. So, I thought it should have a broadside important announcement feel to it.”
You can buy a copy of Amanda’s poster in the ‘Obama for America’ store here.
Amanda says she is excited about winning the contest. She wants her poster to highlight the current economic problems and help the process of recovery. “I like the whole idea that it would be a good kick-starter for the economy and getting people back to work,” she says. “Other than the Jobs Act, there hasn’t been much of an effort to do that. It’s very typical of Obama to make a compromise between Democrats and Republicans—and the American Jobs Act involves ideas that both parties have supported in the past.”
Amanda’s prize, however, was less inspring. For her effort, Amanda received a framed copy of the poster signed by President Obama. Yes folks, that’s it. No monetary reward, no art or research grant, no job offer. Just a signed poster. Did anyone in Washington D.C. think about the fact that they were trying to support the American JOBS Act when they settled on the contest reward? How does a signature help stimulate the economy?
Amanda is making the best of it though. She says, “getting a framed and signed copy of it is awesome. It would be awesome if I got paid for it, but if it helps promote the Jobs Act and it gets passed through, that alone would be a great payoff for me.”
In the 1930s FDR rolled out his New Deal plans that employed hundreds of people across the country. This included artists. Mural artists painted post offices and courthouses, and the Federal Theater Project employed actors, writers, and production hands. And these are just two examples of the artist programs.
While it seems almost impossible that any type of New Deal will pass Congress today, it is nice to hope. And the least the ‘Obama for America’ folks could have done was to offer Ms. Benton $100 for her trouble.
The up side to all this is that Letterpress continues to inspire. The traditional beauty of the broadside highlights the poster’s message and puts a smile on your face.
Interview quotes from: Randy LoBasso, “Meet Amanda Benton, the Philly Artist Who Won the Barack Obama ‘Art Works’ Contest,” The Philadelphia Weekly, Dec. 27, 2011. LINK
American Jobs Act: Wikipedia Link
The New Deal: Wikipedia Link