04 Nov Grateful for Civil Discourse This Thanksgiving
By Lyuba Basin, Rare Books Curator
During the week of the 2016 Presidential Election, a handful of artists gathered around the Printmaking & Letterpress Studio at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. They were attending a workshop led by Bryce McCloud, founder and proprietor of Isle of Printing, titled Analog Social Media. The class began with discussions on the history of communication technologies, the value of materials and community, and the distinction between studio art practice and social art practice. McCloud had proposed the course as a case study for teaching artists the core elements involved in a social art practice. Throughout the week, the group of artists worked on different “communication stations” – spaces full of materials to facilitate conversations, recording, and broadcasting.
By Thursday morning, the team of artists were contemplating the emotional responses from the election results shared by those in the surrounding communities of Penland. They saw a need for additional tools to help individuals talk and listen to one another. One common concern which was heard (and the artists themselves expressed) was how to get through upcoming holiday events with their families. The team set to work on creating a dinner guide to inspire civil discourse.
Over the course of thirty hours the artists designed, printed, and assembled the holiday guide. Illustrations of progressive meal courses from various culinary traditions were drawn by McCloud, wordsmithing was done to clarify intentions for the guide, and a folded packet designed. The packets were printed by hand on Risograph and letterpress machines and the packets were folded and formed to the card collection. That Friday the team distributed the meal guide, titled Civil Dis-course, to nearly all of the Penland community members and encouraged them to take a copy for a friend, if helpful.
Like any art process, talking and listening takes a great deal of patience, humility, resolve and creativity. This Thanksgiving, let’s bring members of our families and our community together and engage in some civil discourse.