Posters from the “Celebrate People’s History” exhibit and event series, as well as a new poster celebrating the Papermaker’s strike that took place in Jay from 1987 to 1988, will be featured from  Jan. 11, through Feb. 20, in the main Atrium Gallery at the Lewiston campus of the University of Southern Maine. The show also includes artifacts from the strike, including buttons, t-shirts, posters, books, and ephemera.

The “Celebrate People’s History” posters are rooted in the do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced and distributed political propaganda, but detourned to embody principles of democracy, inclusion, and group participation in the writing and interpretation of history. Since 1998, nearly 200 posters by more than 150 artists and designers have been produced, with over half a million total posters in circulation. These posters have hung in classrooms, union halls, community centers, healthcare clinics, and city streets across the globe.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Dr. Charles A Scontras Center housed at USM. Established in May 2023, the Scontras Center provides training, education, and resources to unions, community groups, and worker organizations and is named for Dr. Charles Scontras, a noted Maine labor historian, author, and educator who died in March 2021. The Center takes a hands-on, community outreach approach to create participatory, popular education classes that make complex subjects such as workers’ rights and labor history accessible to working-class generations and New Mainers alike.

Several free, public events are scheduled during the exhibition.

On Friday, Jan. 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the public is invited to an opening reception with Elizabeth Jabar, printmaker and artist who created a new poster specifically for the exhibit. Jabar is a feminist printmaker who explores a range of personal-political issues in her work, including cultural identity, representation, equity and maternal ethics. Her practice is located in the studio, the classroom, and the community where she co-creates collaborative and participatory projects with students, colleagues and community members. Other speakers include Michael Hillard, USM labor historian and author of “Shredding Paper: The Rise and Fall of Maine’s Mighty Paper Industry,” Peter Kellman, life-long union leader and labor educator, and other special guests.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Center teaching fellow Kevin Van Meter will present a talk, “Of Pirates, Witches, and Workers: 500 Years of Labor History.”  For 500-years, “the cause of labor is the hope of the world.” The talk begins in the conflict over the collection of firewood and then circulates through the witch-hunts, pirate utopias and slave resistance, corresponding societies and the communards of Paris, the eight-hour day movement and mine wars, great sit-down strikes and great migrations, wartime strikes and the Treaty of Detroit, neo-liberal responses to worker-student and civil rights movements, and the return of the labor movement today. With stories that reverberate throughout labor history, across the planet, and in our working lives.

Union organizer, labor educator, and author Kevin Van Meter, Ph.D., is a teaching fellow at the Scontras Center for Labor and Community Education at USM.

The Atrium Gallery is free and open to the public, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is accessed through the main campus entrance at USM, 51 Westminster St., Lewiston.

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