The Syracuse Poster Project, now in its 22nd year, is built on a partnership between text and art, with each poster incorporating a short poem and an illustration.
Beyond that, the project has a public-art component. The ten posters from the 2023 series are now displayed in panels on South Salina and South Warren streets. One selection is in display cases outside the downtown U.S. Post Office.
As in previous years, the 2023 posters encompass work by local poets and artists interpreting local landscapes, exploring themes such as friendship and community, delving into topics ranging from food to history and architecture.
And so, Lydia Nichols’ artwork referencing the New York State Fair depicts several animals including a cow, sheep and dog, as well as a ribbon awarded to a prize winner. Her piece is paired with Shari Hemsley’s poem: “The finest forelock/Primping feather, wool and fur/Side eyes on the prize.”
A second poster discusses our connection to nature as seen in Katie Mulligan’s portrayal of a thick, green forest scene. Poet Craig Overbeck writes of “These old-growth giants/Feel our footsteps pass and fade/This world, theirs once more.”
And the poster winning first prize for 2023 combines Lucie Wellner’s artwork and David Pasinski’s poem. Her imaginative piece captures a mural next to the Salt City Market, near-by buildings, and several doves. His poem says that “As far as friends go/I promise you to go there/And maybe further.”
A fourth poster comments on the legacy and continuing presence of Haudenosaunee people in this region. Indeed, Rick Portine speaks of “Haudenosaunee/Long-lasting democracy/Peacemaker Guidance.”
It appears with Kathleen O’Dell’s work depicting an indigenous woman and the Haudenosaunee flag, which symbolizes the confederacy’s original five members: Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca and Oneida. The sixth member, the Tuscorara, joined the confederacy in 1722.
Then there’s a poster integrating Octavia Miller’s verse and Barry Lee’s artwork. She writes of “Hands interwoven/Friendship necklace-a token/Our bond unbroken.” His fine illustration shows hands joined into a circle, with local scenes on the periphery: the JMA Wireless Dome at Syracuse University, the Palace Theater, Clinton Square lavishly decorated at Christmas time.
These and other 2023 posters add to a portfolio that already had more than its share of incisive images and poetry. In one memorable poster from a previous series, a bluesman plays his horn in Armory Square while crows look on. That poster was created by David Moreau, an artist, and poet Jack Cox.
In another, the Art Deco exterior of National Grid’s downtown building is rendered in sizzling color. Artist Scott Connor and poet Michael Sickler worked on that poster.
Because the Poster Project creates visual products, one goal is to have them seen by as many people as possible. Jim Emmons, the Poster Project’s coordinator, says the 2023 posters can be viewed not only in display cases downtown but also online and at the Wildflowers Armory, 217 S. Salina St.
And he notes that there are other outlets for the project’s portfolio. Posters from various years have been reissued and are displayed at locales including Armory Square, Franklin Square and the Creekwalk. Moreover, notecards appropriating various posters are sold at the Erie Canal Museum, Onondaga Historical Association, and other venues.
The revenue derived from such sales help support a non-profit organization operating on a financial shoestring. The Poster Project doesn’t have public-sector funding. It relies on contributions from individual and corporate donors, an occasional grant, and sales of various items.
Emmons says the Poster Project continues to look for ways to boost income. For example, many poems submitted for the project’s annual competition never make it onto a poster. There’s the possibility of printing them in booklets.
In addition, sound bites, in the form of short audio segments, are more and more popular on social media. Emmons is looking at adapting some of the poems for this medium.
Like any cultural enterprise, the Poster Project is looking to enhance its visibility. Among other things, there’s discussion of having a mascot for the project.
Finally, the premiere of a new series of posters every April is preceded by months of work: sending out a call for poems and art, selecting a panel to judge submissions, doing graphic design, working with a printer, and much more.
To purchase any of the 2023 posters, go to the Wildflowers Armory or to the Poster Project’s online store, www.posterproject.org.
Carl Mellor covered visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 through 2019. He continues to write about exhibitions and artists in the Syracuse area.