Remember back when it was December 31, 2016? When January 1, 2017 was just the beginning of another new year? You may ask, where’d the time go? Or, perhaps you reminisced about all the ups and downs of 2016. But, here we are, the first week of another new year already behind us! The Holidays are officially over and Winter is here with a frightful blast of cold and grey! What better time than to sit and reflect on all the things that kept us warm and busy during 2017!
For the Syracuse Poster Project, 2017 was a particularly good year. We saw several fruitful collaborations established, many ideas realized, and met some new friends along the way.
Fruitful Collaborations! Coinciding with the Erie Canal Bicentennial, we joined statewide festivities by issuing a special Erie Canal themed poster for our 2017 Poster Series. We commissioned Tong “Amy” Su, a graduate student in the Syracuse University Illustration Program, to illustrate a scene for our poets to respond to. Su created a lively bird’s-eye view of canal commerce with the winning haiku coming from Ross Getman.
canal side commerce / briefcase, balloon, umbrella / echoes of past steps
We then teamed up with the Erie Canal Museum to win a grant from Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today for an installation of our Erie Canal Poster at the Museum. We reproduced Su’s historic Canal poster in triplicate—the original poster flanked by two enlargements—and installed these three panels on the exterior of the Museum’s storage building.
From former windows on the second story, the Canal posters overlook Erie Boulevard.
On the heels of this successful rendering, we found ourselves collaborating with the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, host of the World Canals Conference, to produce a commemorative poster for the Conference which took place in Syracuse this past September. Tong “Amy” Su’s work for the Poster Series was so appealing, we asked her to develop another poster to promote the Conference. The stunning result prompted the organizers to purchase 50 of her beautiful posters as gifts for their speakers at the Conference!
Something New! Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, we’ve become a video nation. The Poster Project joined the flow this year with a series of splashy videos produced largely by enthusiastic volunteers and, in one instance, by professional videographers.
First up was our “Public Dollars for Public Art” video where we advocated the value of public art by making a whimsical case for allocating parking meter revenues to public art in Syracuse. The piece has yet to shift any resources in that direction, but it did win us a $500 award in the Central New York Community Foundation’s “What Matters to Me” contest.
We proudly passed these monies to the charity of our choice—CNY Arts—for its good work advancing arts and culture in Central New York. Click here to read about Jim Emmons’ winning entry and video and click here to read about the other winners of the Foundation’s 2017 contest.
Our next series of video productions took flight thanks to a volunteer, Priya Narayanan, who briefly graced us with her filmmaking skills. Priya studied information technology and taught herself filmmaking on the side. She joined us just before the opening celebration for the 2017 Poster Series. She dashed off a series of video portraits from the event, produced a video on our travelling exhibit at the Upstate Cancer Center, and, for her last work, whipped together a piece on Art on the Porches—click here to view her work at this annual event and here for videos from the 2017 Poster Event. Over the summer, we had to say goodbye to Priya as she and her husband moved to Delaware. We’ll miss working with her!
We’re tempted to call 2017 the year of Splash Poetry! Our story is often one of circling back: we get excited about an idea, but can’t find the time or resources to pull it off. It simmers on a back burner for a year or more, until finally we stir it again, add the right ingredients, and serve it up. That’s how it was with our Splash Poetry Project.
Board member, Joe Murphy, was exploring civic poetry groups in other parts of the country when he discovered Mass Poetry doing something fun: stenciling poetry on sidewalks with special spray paint that only shows up when rained upon or splashed with water! This seemed tailor made for our haiku—and for rainy Syracuse Summers! But, the idea had to mature for a year or so until the time was right to bring it to term.
Finally last Spring, along with an uplifting, out-of-the blue, contribution from the Central New York Community Foundation, Joe and fellow board member, Jason Evans, kick-started the conception and our Splash Poetry Project was born! Together, they designed stencils, had them laser cut, and then stenciled site-specific haiku at 10 downtown locations. (Click here to see where the splash haiku were initially placed.)
When the original poems washed away, we stenciled them again. But, this time, we hired a pair of professional videographers, Michael Barletta and Courtney Rile, of Daylight Blue Media, to document our appropriately named, Splash Poetry Project. They did an excellent job, both of filming as Joe and Jason stenciled poems on downtown sidewalks, and of editing the footage into a vivid portrait of civic art in action! This was our first experience with the power of professional filmmaking, and we’re delighted to have joined forces with Mike and Courtney. Click here to view this wonderful video! Keep an eye out for more Splash Poetry in the warmer months of 2018.
New Friends! We were selected by the Downtown Committee of Syracuse to participate in the first installment of its Art in the Windows Project. Funded by the Central New Community Foundation, the project has brightened a dozen downtown shopfronts and windows with art installations. We installed 10 posters from our archives in the poster boxes outside the Post Office on Salina Street.
Over the summer, we worked with executive director of CNY Jazz, Larry Luttinger, to install large-format jazz-themed posters in the newly renovated lobby of Jazz Central. The display consists of two posters on panels, with a third panel in storage for periodic change outs. The Poster featured here is from our 2010 Series. The Jazz-themed haiku was written by Elisabeth Anderson and the poster illustrated by Eric Johanni an adjunct faculty member of the Art Department at Phoenix College.
sloe gin soul with open mic,
two drink minimum.
Lastly, we joined Friends of Onondaga Central Library to sell framed posters from the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series through our online store. The posters depict, and are autographed by, featured writers from this prodigious series.
Sales benefit both the Onondaga County Library System and Syracuse Poster Project. As we diversify our engagement with civic art, we view these literary posters as belonging to that realm. You’ll also see that we worked with the Central Library to install a library-themed poster, like the one below, next to the third floor elevator. The Poster featured here is from our 2003 Series and was written by Janine DeBaise and illustrated by former Syracuse University Illustration student, Christopher Savido, whose portrait of former President George Bush created quite a stir in 2004.
Rows and rows of books
Lure me into their pages
I leave with arms full
New Board Members, Volunteers and Interns! After a period of attrition—veteran board members retiring from the board—2017 was a year for board growth. We’re now enjoying the energy and skills of several newcomers, including: Anna Putintseva, a lawyer with Bousquet Holstein; Lindsay Speicher, a community liaison at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield; Adam Rozum, an independent designer and owner of Polonaise European Market; Jason Evans, an architect at Ashley McGraw; Gwen Morgan, a media specialist at LeMoyne College; and Chris Montgomery, a jobs specialist at SUNY Educational Opportunity Center.
We were also fortunate to have several new volunteers join us, including: Naomi Coufal, John Kulak and Brittney Cason. And, of course, we’d be lost without our long-standing volunteers, sponsors and partners as well as our Interns who work with us for a short period of time, but produce phenomenal work. (Click here to see a list of our interns from over the past few years.)
For example, before we said our goodbyes to our hard-working Spring semester intern, Naomi Masingale, she was the subject of a photo documentary by photographer, Nancy Kasberg, who came to us from the Military Journalism Program at SU’s Newhouse School of Public Communication.
This wonderful narrative slideshow, complete with Naomi’s voice over, walks you through her internship experience with us. (Click here to view this video!) Congratulations to Naomi who graduated this past year with a Masters in Arts Administration from LeMoyne College!
In addition, our student interns were paramount to tweaking our website this year! For a small organization, we have a robust website. With help from web development interns, we added significant features to our growing presence on the web. Most notably, we re-established an interactive map that shows all locations that have given rise to posters over the years, with links to corresponding posters, artists, and poets–since our founding in 2001, more than 500 poets have submitted haiku! The map first existed on a Google platform, until Google discontinued the service. It was then in hiatus for a couple of years until we took on an intern, Xi Chen, capable of investigating a new platform. Thanks to Xi and her successor, Yunhui Zhu, we now share our interactive map via Mapbox. You can explore a map that shows where poets come from, which municipalities or neighborhoods are most poetic, and where the hotspots of poetic energy come from! To see the map, visit our Participate page and scroll down. Find your haiku poster here!
The website now has an improved Photo Gallery Section where visitors can quickly peruse both the Poster Series archived by year (click here to view) and/or photos from the annual unveiling events (click here to see these). And, the Shop section of our website took on two new categories: one for literary posters promoting the Rosamond-Gifford Lecture Series as mentioned above; another for graphic work by Syracuse artists working in veins similar to ours.
More on Information Technology! What end-of-year summary would be complete without a report from the IT Department? Frankly, we wish we had an IT department! It would be incredibly helpful. Nevertheless, in our measured way, we made IT strides in 2017. With a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation, we bought three high-performance laptops, installed new accounting and graphics software, and subscribed to the cloud computing services of Office 365. All of which enables us to take on more interns and volunteers, and to work with them efficiently.
Funding! We remain a small nonprofit organization supported by product sales, corporate sponsorship, and charitable grants—no dedicated year-to-year funding. As challenging as it is to raise funds, we experienced bright spots in 2017. We brought on three new corporate sponsors–TCGPlayer, Bousquet Holstein and Drive Research— and saw a longstanding sponsor, Byrne Dairy, significantly boost its sponsorship.
In the New Year! With our new computer resources, we’re well positioned to begin work with a growing roster of interns and volunteers. These new hands should help us produce the 2018 Poster Series and move on to tasks that sometimes exceed our resources: applying for grants, refining our website, developing new products and projects.
In fact, we’re already underway with a specially commissioned poster from Nicora Gangi for our 2018 series on the theme of Syracuse as a place of welcome for all people and cultures. Jean Fahey’s fine haiku was selected to match this poster which will be unveiled in April.
A beacon of hope
City of welcoming arms
A place to call home
We will further this theme by reviving our Cards for New Americans Project. We initiated the cards project several years ago with partial funding. The idea is to issue packs of notecards as welcome gifts for new Americans at their naturalization ceremonies. In 2018, we’ll resume fundraising and see the project to completion.
The last dish is fired
Kiln’s cooled, now the auction starts
Good—bye my old friend
Thank You! As you see by these few highlights, 2017 was a very productive year for us. We could not have done this without the loyal support of our friends, board members, volunteers, interns and our families. Thank you for your continued support of the Syracuse Poster Project!
Happy New Year to you!
Jim Emmons with Rosalyn M. Carroll for the Syracuse Poster Project