Photo Credits: Monica Ziegler
This past month, West Chester University hosted an art exhibition titled “We The Women” in the E.O. Bull Center, specifically, in the John H. Baker Gallery. The show is made up of 39 posters centered around feminism and women’s rights. They are inspiring feats of graphic design that use creativity and color to capture the perspectives of women, women-identifying and non-binary designers regarding common issues women face.
The opportunity to show the collective came to the school thanks to Professor David P. Jones, a professor in West Chester’s art department. When I spoke with him about featuring the art, he discussed how he met Kelly Holohan, co-creator of the exhibit, through the Tyler School of Art and Architecture where he attended and Holohan taught as a professor of graphic design. Jones expressed that the contents of the art are important issues for those at West Chester to consider, and that he also had “admiration for the creative chops reflected” in the posters and wanted to “showcase the technical merit of the show.”
I had the privilege to virtually sit down with the two creators of the collective, Holohan and Michelle Cooper, this week over zoom to learn about the history and motivation behind “We The Women.” Holohan, who still teaches at the Tyler School, and Cooper, who owns graphic design studio, Cooper Graphic Design, with her husband, met as members of The American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGA, and have been friends for over twenty years.
The two women talked about how the exhibit began in 2019 during a time of political unrest that was scary for women. They wanted the designers they knew to express what they were feeling through art with Cooper saying they were mostly concerned with “capturing what was happening in the moment.” The graphics were originally meant to be posters people could purchase to take along to rallies or marches, hence their transport friendly size of 13” x 17 3/8”, which is dubbed “Protest Size” on their website.
Shortly after they were able to print the posters, colleagues they had connections with in various colleges reached out wanting to display the collection for their students. From there, the designs have traveled to colleges all over the area: St. Joseph’s University, Marietta College and Drexel University as well as other venues throughout the greater Philadelphia area. The exhibition has taken off on its own, and they hope to continue to grow the collection in the coming months.
The artists who design the posters are colleagues, former students, and friends of Cooper and Holohan who each include a little blurb under their design of what it represents. The content of the posters ranges from encouragement to be confident to political declarations, and all things in-between relating to feminism, and the diverse range of artists offers a well-rounded collective of pieces, even one from a 10-year-old girl.
Holohan said that when students view the collection, she hopes they realize “that you have a voice.” She said that as an artist “I feel like our job is to put the messages out into the world that we feel is important.” Students should also express what they feel is important, and Cooper said she hopes the collection helps people realize that “it’s okay to not know a different perspective” and that she hopes it “inspires someone to go out and learn more.” She pointed out that all of the designers who contributed are brave and that “we hope that this bravery might inspire other students to feel brave enough to stand up for something that they also believe in.”
All of the posters are available for purchase on their website, www.wethewomendesign.com, in various sizes, including the protest size previously mentioned and as postcards as well. On their Instagram, @wethewomendesign, you can find out more about the collaborative’s various exciting projects, including panel discussions, poster-making workshops and new projects they will work on.
Kelly Holohan, Michele Cooper and their work on the “We The Women,” along with all the artists who contributed, show how powerful art can be when it comes to capturing different perspectives on important topics and movements. They both believe anyone can make a difference and bring awareness to topics they care about and use their voice to inspire change. Everyone should take a look at the posters if they have a chance to see what there is to learn, and maybe be inspired to get creative yourself.
Monica Ziegler is a third-year Communication Studies major with a minor in Journalism. MZ928023@wcupa.edu