About Northland Poster Collective:
Northland Poster Collective is dedicated to promoting a socially just world through the use of art. We create, find, distribute and encourage art that will make a positive contribution. There are many ways to make a difference. Our art ranges from fine art prints on themes of equality and dignity to educational posters that tell an important story to T-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers that express the vital issues of the day with humor and pizzaz. Our posters grace walls in many parts of our continent and planet and our organizing products are used in workplaces and communities wherever people organize to improve their conditions. Northland has grown from a small group of artists working in a makeshift basement studio to the headquarters for labor art that it is today.
Our collection of designs is kept fresh by a continuing dialog with rank and file activists, organizers, school teachers, and others on the front lines. We understand both art and organizing and passionately believe that that world needs plenty of both. We also believe in walking our talk. The products we produce are made and printed by workers who have a union with which to defend their interests. The same is true for the workers who provide our telephone service, deliver the products to you, and print our catalogs.
The Poster Collective began in early 1979. It was started when a group of artists met at a visual arts workshop at a conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The artists present decided to create an organization that would create art and help organizations use art to produce positive social change. One of our early members was an artist who had helped organize an artist’s union in the 1930’s and had been part of the New Deal art programs.
We soon discovered that creating posters had a limited impact if they stayed on the shelf. Our first effort at distribution was a small pamphlet of our images mailed to a list compiled from phone books at the public library. Soon we were hearing from activist artists looking for a way to distribute their art and stores seeking better ways to find those artists. The Northland Catalog was born.
The work of the collective has grown over two decades, driven by the needs of the organizers in the trenches. Union activists complained that little was available that spoke to labor issues. So we created new work and contacted labor-connected artists and have grown to become the art-mill of the labor movement. As a result labor art can now be found in union halls, workplaces, and schools at all levels. Calls from classroom teachers sent us to the drawing boards to create educational posters on forgotten histories and oppressed communities. Each wave of organizing challenges us to unleash the power of art at the service of new initiatives.
Using art, humor, and grassroots creativity can make for organizing that is fun, effective, and sustainable. As Northland’s director runs around giving workshops on art and organizing we also find increased demand for cartoons for organizing drives and publications and for assistance in planning campaigns.
Creating artwork for workers’ rights and justice, especially during the last twenty years have not made us a magnet for corporate donations and the collective has seen it’s share of hard times. The membership drive initiated in 1999 has provided a long-awaited dose of stability and has become an important foundation for our work. Work that it appears will be needed for a long time to come.