Senior Alex Mie designs posters for poets who do readings in Lawrence.

Alex Mie didn’t think her art work would lead to an ongoing job and an Instagram shout-out from poet Eve Ewing, but she was wrong.

A poster Mie created for Ewing was a part of a competition last year in which students in Mie’s class, titled Designer as Author, had to create a poster for the 2018 Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture, hosted by The Commons.

Mie, a senior studying graphic design, won the competition based on her poster of Ewing, who was this year’s Kenneth A. Spencer lecturer. Now, Mie, a Wichita native, has been paid to produce several posters for poetry readings, one of which will take place Oct. 10 and will feature poets Morgan Parker and Tommy Pico, hosted by The Commons and The Raven Book Store. She’s even had a chance to meet some of the poets, including Danez Smith and Hanif Abdurraqib. She’ll make two more posters for The Commons after she graduates in December.

“That was my first introduction to The Commons,” Mie said about Ewing’s poster. “I hadn’t really gone to any of their events in the past, but I’m glad that I’m involved now, and I’m glad that I get the chance to see all of these speakers and work with them and make the posters, so I think I’ve been really fortunate in this experience.”

Mie wasn’t familiar with most of the poets’ work before designing the posters — a total of six, so far — so she said extensive research on each poet and their various books and poems was a priority for her. She said she has read the works of each poet at least twice before designing the posters.

“For the first poster, I went into it very nervous because Eve Ewing writes about specifically the black experience and being a black woman, and I knew going into that that I couldn’t really get everything from she was writing because I’m a white woman,” Mie said. “I reached out to a lot of friends to ask them their opinion as I was working on the poster. I read basically everything she had written up to that point and I read her book Electric Arches at least eight times.”

Mie’s approach to her work initially impressed Emily Ryan, The Commons director, who was judging the competition last year. It’s what urged Ryan to consider Mie to create posters for future events. Through her partnership with Mie, Ryan said Mie’s illustrations had been requested for freelance work with different publishing houses.

“Her style is very illustrative, and it incorporates a lot of the elements that she picks up from doing the readings,” Ryan said. “It’s very apparent that she’s reading the work of these artists and poets, so she draws on themes that they are incorporating and she draws on visual elements, but she turns it into a very cohesive illustration.”

Ryan said it’s interesting to see the different details of the poets’ work and personality be illustrated through Mie’s work.

“In the case of the Danez Smith poster, the jewelry that’s featured is Danez Smith’s actual jewelry that’s seen on their social media account, so I’m just continually impressed by how much she’s reading and internalizing and creatively reinterpreting who these people are,” Ryan said.

Making illustrations is a passion that Mie discovered while at the University. She was originally an English major before switching to graphic design during her sophomore year.

“I was an English major, and I wasn’t doing the readings,” Mie said. “I noticed that in my spare time, I was making as much visual things as I possibly could, and it was really something that I just noticed I enjoyed.”

Mie credits the School of Architecture and Design for easing her transition into graphic design and allowing her to explore different subjects with her art. While she said she isn’t sure how her love for graphic design will translate into a job after graduation, Mie knows she’ll be able to combine her unique approach to her work with her passion in whatever she does, similar to her work for The Commons.

“The reality of being a student today is you have to pay back your student loans and try to progress in your field, so I’ll be trying to get the jobs that I can and, while I’m doing them, try to incorporate what I like doing so I get more jobs centered around what I enjoy doing,” Mie said.

Mie said the inspiration for what she enjoys doing, regarding her work for The Commons, is work of the various poets.

“I think for everything you make, you have to draw a new inspiration,” Mie said. “So for all of these [posters], it was really about the work that they made and really, having read it and having enjoyed it, feeling motivated to treat it with utmost respect to want to make something for it.”

— Edited by Hailey Dixon

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