Celebrate People's History
GVSU Performing Arts Center Gallery, Allendale Campus
August 28, 2020 - November 6, 2020
Rooted in the do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced and distributed political propaganda, the Celebrate People’s History (CPH) poster series seeks to generate a diverse collection that brings to life successful moments in the history of social justice struggles. The project has been organized and curated by Josh MacPhee for over twenty years, beginning in 1998 when he created a poster of Malcolm X, and then pasted copies throughout Chicago’s West Side. Over the following years, MacPhee asked artists and designers to join the CPH project by finding events, groups, and people who have moved forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more equitable and just world and to interpret them with their unique vision and style.
Today CPH posters grace the walls of dorm rooms, apartments, community centers, classrooms, and city streets. Over 125 different designs have been printed in the past twenty years, adding up to nearly half a million total posters. Although MacPhee has organized and funded these posters himself, the series has always been a collective project. Nearly two hundred artists have designed posters, including Brett Colley, associate professor in the Department of Visual & Media Arts at Grand Valley State University. In addition to the artists, multiple community-based print shops have done the production, dozens of people have run around at night pasting them on the street, and thousands have helped distribute them around the world.
Artist and GVSU faculty Brett Colley talks about his creative process and involvement in the exhibition.
Virtual 3D Tour
Posters, Artists, and Featured Stories
Select posters from the exhibition are featured below. You can view the entire collection of posters in the GVSU Art Gallery database.
About the Curator
Josh MacPhee is a designer, artist, and archivist. He is a founding member of both the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and Interference Archive, a public collection of cultural materials produced by social movements based in Brooklyn, NY. MacPhee is the author and editor of numerous publications, including Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now and Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics and Culture (and other books linked above). He has organized the Celebrate People's History poster series since 1998 and has been designing book covers for many publishers for the past decade (AntumbraDesign.org). His most recent book is An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels (Common Notions, 2019), a compendium of information about political music and radical cultural production.
Curator, Josh MacPhee
Key Themes & Research Tools
The posters in this exhibition feature events, groups, and individual people who, in the words of curator Josh MacPhee, "have moved forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more equitable and just world." You will find posters depicting lesser-known human rights activists, posters honoring protests from decades past, and posters celebrating histories that don't always show up in text books. MacPhee explains, "The posters tell stories from the subjective position of the artists, and are often the stories of underdogs, those written out of history. The goal of this project is not to tell a definitive history, but to suggest a new relationship to the past."
This exhibition engages themes related to social justice, the mass production and distribution of DIY visual media, and how artistic interpretation plays a role in our relationship with history. The GVSU Library subject guides listed below and the databases list under "Additional Resources" help you find articles related to these themes. Download the Learning Guide (right) for more information about these themes.
Can't make it to the gallery? Then take a virtual tour of the exhibit while maintaining safe social distancing practices.
Check out the following GVSU Library books and articles covering key themes of the exhibition. Or use the Libraries Catalog to find more books and articles.
Activities & Events
The activities and events linked below were created specifically for this exhibition, and engage a variety of themes, creative processes and media related to the artwork and artists in the exhibition. They are still available via the links below.
Make your own poster inspired by the Celebrate People's History program.
Click for a downloadable template and step-by-step instructions!
All the posters in this exhibition are now part of the permanent collection of art at GVSU. Personalized virtual tours or classroom visits featuring posters in this collection are available upon request! Email User Experience & Learning Manager, Amanda Rainey, to set-up a virtual tour or visit for your class; email@example.com
Additional Reading / Viewing
- A People's History for the Classroom by Bill Bigelow and Howard Zinn
- After the Protests Are Heard: Enacting Civic Engagement and Social Transformation by Sharon D. Welch
- History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times by Mary Frances Berry
- TED Talk: The Urgency of Intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw
Get Involved On Campus
- Attend a Fall 2020 Democracy 101 virtual event through the Community Service Learning Center
- Join a Registered Student Organization
- Connect with a GVSU Social Justice Center
Research & Writing Resources
- Alt-PressWatch This link opens in a new window: Alt-PressWatch showcases unique, independent voices from some of our nation's most respected and cited grassroots newspapers, magazines, and journals. The database features over 670,000 articles from more than 210 publications, offering a wide range of unfettered, critical coverage of the news.
- America: History and Life: The premier database for research on the history of the United States and Canada.
- American Indian Experience: Is a full-text resource exploring the histories and contemporary cultures of the indigenous peoples of the United States featuring more than 150 volumes, hundreds of primary documents, and thousands of images.
- Art Abstracts and Retrospective: Art Full Text and Retrospective indexes more than 500 worldwide publications covering the fine, decorative and commercial arts, crafts and media as far back as 1929.
- ARTstor: ARTstor is a digital library of nearly one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences with a set of tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes.
- Daily Life Through History: Provides a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary resource that supports history, social studies, English, and language students. It moves seamlessly from past to present, providing context for contemporary life and culture. The content is enhanced with new books, articles, images, maps, primary documents, and more on a regular cycle.
- GenderWatch: Provides authoritative historical and current perspectives on the evolution of gender roles as they affect both men and women.
- GVSU Visual Resources Library (GLEAN©): The GVSU Visual Resources Library is the Department of Visual and Media Arts Collection consisting of more than 260,000 digital images to support teaching and learning in art and design. To access the collection from off-campus, please contact the Visual Resources Library at firstname.lastname@example.org or (616)331-3644 for username and password.
- International Bibliography of Art (IBA): The International Bibliography of Art (IBA) is the successor to the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA). It includes the subject areas of fine arts, archaeology, museum studies, classical studies, and architecture. This resource has an international scope with over 60% of content from non-English publications. Date coverage: 2008-present.
- Oxford Art Online: Oxford Art Online is an art reference library that searches Grove Art Online, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, and The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. This resource contains images, biographies, subject entries, and thematic timelines.
More from the GVSU Art Gallery & Permanent Collection
Additional Artworks from the GVSU Art Collection Related to Social Justice, History, and Printmaking
- José Guadalupe Posada Print Collection
- Robert L. Hoskins And Erwin A. Raible Collection Of Fin De Siécle French Prints, Gift Of Elaine Rutowski Shay
- Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
- Earth Sciences (Environmental Studies & Sustainability)
- Native American Studies
Use Art in the Classroom
August 28, 2020 - November 6, 2020
Performing Arts Center Gallery
Performing Arts Center
1 Campus Dr.
Allendale, MI 49401
Monday 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 1:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Friday 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.