At LFK Press, the design studio owned by local artist Leslie Kuluva on 8th Street in downtown Lawrence, Bernie Sanders posters and politically-influenced buttons are just as likely to be found as her popular “LFK” T-shirts.
Kuluva is one of many local artists whose recent work is, in part, a reaction to the current political climate. She said that since the 2016 presidential campaign, various event organizers and local chapters of social movements, such as the Lawrence chapter of Black Lives Matter, have recruited her to design merchandise.
For the women’s march on Topeka on Saturday, Kuluva is designing 13-by-19 inch posters similar those being used to promote the national march in Washington D.C. on the same day. Kuluva said she doesn't consider her designs political — women’s issues and the Black Lives Matter movement are common sense to her.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a super political person,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a political artist. I don’t even know that I consider this stuff really politics, if you want to be frank.”
During the 2014 state governor's election, Lawrence-based illustrator and University alumnus Patrick Giroux and some of his friends sold prints to raise money for candidate Paul Davis’ campaign.
Giroux said that such political art brings legitimacy to the movements it supports. Much of Giroux’s work is meant to show what he likes in Kansas, including landmark prints and maps that show the state’s natural beauty. Going forward, his work will be more “civics-focused.”
“As a citizen to stand up for others and to fight against injustice, indifference and push back on apathy and hate, that’s what I see as our roles as citizens to try and stand up for each other,” Giroux said.
Lawrence printmaker Justin Marable spent the 2016 campaign collaborating with other local artists on various political projects, including a zine publication called “Microburst” that provided a platform for artists and writers to declare their opposition to what they saw as the “extreme conservative political takeover” of Kansas. Marable is a co-creator of the zine and designed its cover.
Marable said that he has a responsibility as an artist to use his work for activism, because it’s his job as a creative thinker to raise awareness and find solutions.
“I know that lots of artists in Lawrence and throughout the state aren't going to sit quietly in their studios and pretend like their worldview hasn't changed since the election,” he said. “There undoubtedly will be, and already has been, an increase in merging art and activism.”
— Edited by Frank Weirich