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Book Review: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

Pity Comic Sans, the font that people love to hate. Developed by Vincent Connare in the mid-1990s, Comic Sans is what author Simon Garfield describes as “type that has gone wrong” in his book Just My Type, an engaging history of type (which, these days, the average person refers to as a ‘font,’ but more on that later).

Connare designed Comic Sans as a reaction against the perceived formality of Times New Roman. Specifically, as a new typeface for Microsoft Bob, a user-friendly software program designed for people who didn’t use – or were frightened of – computers. Connare believed that Times New Roman didn’t mesh well with other elements of the software, such as its “accessible language and […] appealing illustrations.” Ultimately, Connare’s new type couldn’t be worked into the package. Guess what? Microsoft Bob failed. Not long afterward, Connare’s Comic Sans was released in another software package that indeed became popular.

Then, after being included in Windows 95, Comic Sans was everywhere. So much so that people got sick of it. Like, really sick of it. Garfield tells us of Holly and David Combs, a couple who made an anti-Comic Sans website and sold “Ban Comic Sans” merchandise. It’s not necessarily that the Combs thought Comic Sans had no place in the world, but that it needed to be put back in its place. This seemingly ubiquitous hatred of Comic Sans is not unlike how people love to hate Merlot–they know little about its complexities, nuances, and when it is, in fact, a smart, or dare I say the right, choice.

Not only does Garfield give us the history of type/fonts, but, in some cases, the histories of their creators. One such case is the grisly history (that I definitely won’t mention here) of Eric Gill, whose typeface Gill Sans appeared in 1928 as “one of the twentieth century’s earliest and classic sans serif fonts” and is still widely used today.

Speaking of Sans Serif fonts, what’s the difference between that and Serif? I’ll tell you, but Garfield will tell you better with one of the fantastic visuals that accompany the text throughout his book. Serif fonts have feet and tips, which are the serifs. Remove those and voila! You have Sans Serif.

So what about this whole typeface and type/font thing? While typeface is a certain style of lettering, fonts refer to variations of a typeface, including size, weight, and so on. Garfield writes: “Fonts were once known as founts. Fonts and founts weren’t the same as typefaces, and typefaces weren’t the same as type.” He highlights this and many other more technical aspects of typography that, admittedly, readers without a keen interest in type may not find interesting. For example, typographers once had typescales (depth scales) for measuring not only the type, but the space between it, both of which are referred to as the point size, or, for typographers (and printers, as in printing presses) these measurements are grouped into picas.

“DIY” is one of my favorite chapters because it introduced me to the John Bull Printing Outfit, a DIY typographic kit released in the 1930s. It was both creative and educational and, to me, looks and sounds like loads of fun (Hello, eBay!). Garfield goes on to discuss other methods of personal printing, from Letrasets to typewriters to floppy disks, ending the chapter saying that “well-printed” materials are “fast becoming heritage,” yet “typefaces – both their preponderance and ingenuity – have not suffered a similar decline in fortunes.” He writes further that perhaps we have too many.

I particularly appreciate how easy-reading this book is. Although I didn’t learn this till 250 pages in, the book is set in Sabon, which is known for its readability. Perhaps my sharing this with you is somewhat of a spoiler, but I have good reason for doing so. That I thought the book was easy-reading before knowing a particular font was chosen to achieve just that illustrates how much of a connection we have between text – not just what it says, but how it looks – and the way we process information and, more generally, the world.

Literally every printed word was someone’s decision to use a particular typeface or font. The newspaper (or screen, if that’s your style) that you’re holding in your hand to read this review is but one example. Whether we realize it or not – or like it or not – the way that things look impact the way that we interact with them and fonts are no exception. Have you ever been put off by some fonts and not others? Made choices as a consumer based on fonts and labels? Sure you have, as have I.

Garfield reminds us that, like anything else, fonts have rules. Though he’s not necessarily opposed, he wonders “to what extent do rules stifle individuality and creativity?” (Good question.) I’ll leave you with a few so-called rules mentioned by Garfield, though he attributes them to Paul Felton: “Thou shalt not apply more than three typefaces in a document;” “Remember that a typeface that is not legible is not truly a typeface;” and “Thou shalt not use only capitals when setting vast body copy.”

As always, happy reading.

Still Here: A Collection of Artifacts from the Family of Langston Hughes

We are glad to partner with Joplin’s own Langston Hughes Cultural Society to present Still Here: A Collection of Artifacts from the Family of Langston Hughes in Joplin Public Library’s Community Room on Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 10:30am.

This program features a selection of artifacts from the Langston Hughes Family Museum and a presentation from Executive Director and Curator Marjol Rush-Collet. The Langston Hughes Family Museum is a traveling museum featuring original photographs, personal belongings, household items, crystal glassware, silver utensils, and period clothing used by various Hughes family members.

This is a free, public event. Registration is not necessary. Please note that seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. For more information, contact Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan at 417.623.7953 x1041.

Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/5HqMYq2u0.

City of Hope: Resurrection City & the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign

“City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign” will be on display from Saturday, January 15th through Monday, February 28th, 2022 in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery inside Joplin Public Library.

This Smithsonian-created poster exhibition honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final and most ambitious vision that each U.S. citizen have equal access to economic opportunities and the American dream. It examines the Poor People’s Campaign, a grassroots, multiracial movement that drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C. for 43 days between May and June 1968, where demonstrators demanded social reforms while living side-by-side on the National Mall in a tent city known as Resurrection City.

Although President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in 1964, tens of millions of Americans were denied livable wages, adequate housing, nutritious food, quality
education, and healthcare. Led by Drs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized the Poor People’s Campaign in
response to poverty as a national human rights issue. Stretching 16 acres along the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, Resurrection City housed 3,000
protesters with structures for essential services like sanitation, communications, medical care, and childcare. It included a dining tent, cultural center, and a city hall along the encampment’s
bustling “Main Street.”

The Poor People’s Campaign marked an important moment in U.S. history and set the stage for future social justice movements. Within months after Resurrection City’s evacuation,
major strides were made toward economic equality, influencing school lunch programs, rent subsidies, home ownership assistance for low-income families, education and welfare
services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and more.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “City of
Hope” highlights a series of newly discovered photographs and an array of protest signs and political buttons collected during the campaign. Featuring 18 posters, the exhibition will help
visitors engage and contextualize the Poor People’s Campaign’s historical significance and present-day relevance.

 

Charles McPherson: The Journey Home

Join us in February 2022 for the homecoming of world-renowned jazz musician and Joplin native Charles McPherson. Visit Connect2Culture’s Charles McPherson: The Journey Home webpage to learn more about all of the events – including a free, public performance – taking place during this multi-day celebration.

Charles McPherson: The Journey Home is a collaboration among Connect2Culture, the Langston Hughes Cultural Society, The Minnie Hackney Community Service Center of Joplin, Post Art Library, Pro Musica, Spiva Center for the Arts, and Visit Joplin MO.

Holiday Tea to feature The Opus 76 Quartet

This year, we’ve partnered with Pro Musica and Joplin Public Library to bring The Opus 76 Quartet to the library for our annual Holiday Tea!

Join us on Saturday, December 4, 2021 for one of two performances:

  • 10-10:45AM: Enjoy a delightful morning Bach-a-Bye Baby performance featuring author/narrator Leia Barrett in a new musical take on the classic tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
  • 2-3:00PM: Enjoy an afternoon performance of classical string quartet favorites. Specifically, A. Dvorak: Quartet No.12 in F Major, “American,” Op.96 and The Danish String Quartet: Selections from Woodworks. At the end of this performance, PAL will give away their take-home Holiday Tea kits while supplies last.

From its hometown of Kansas City, The Opus 76 Quartet has become recognized in journals worldwide for its entertaining and energetic interpretations of the classics. Which is to say we are very excited to welcome them to our library!

These programs are free and open to the public. Registration not necessary.

PLEASE NOTE: in an effort to offer safe programming, masks will be required for all attendees ages 2 and older (per CDC guidelines), regardless of vaccination status.

The 2021 PAL Holiday Tea is a partnership between Post Art Library, Pro Musica, and Joplin Public Library. For more information about this event, contact PAL Director Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x 1041 or jhsullivan@postartlibrary.org.

Queer Space by Luke Blevins

We’re glad to present Queer Space by Luke Blevins in Joplin Public Library’s Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery from Sunday, October 10-Friday, December 31, 2021.

In this work, Blevins explores the tangential relationships between boyhood, social expectations, queer culture, and heteronormative assimilationism. He uses fantastical imagery to illustrate the shifting relationships we have with space and community as we grow and develop into our own persons. Through digital manipulation and processes, he creates imagery that proposes narratives without conclusions. Blevins was born and raised in Southwest Missouri. He studied art at Missouri Southern State University before earning his Master of Arts at the University of Missouri Kansas City. He teaches at Crowder College in the evenings and works in Admissions at Missouri Southern during the day.

The exhibit is open during the library’s regular hours of operation. An Artist Talk with Luke Blevins is scheduled for Saturday, November 6, 2021 in the Community Room at Joplin Public Library. This is a FREE, public exhibit/event. For more information, contact Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041 or jhsullivan@postartlibrary.org.

Space Boy, digital photography, 2020

Peter and Jamie, digital photography, 2020

Seaman Abroad, digital photography, 2019

Transients Unwelcome, digital photography, 2018

Artist’s Statement

Nostalgia is most commonly related to the idea of longing for the past or, more appropriately, a past sense of self-identity.  It is a tool to reference and re-contextualize the past through a personal lens. Nostalgia lends itself to fantasy as our memories are unreliable. We create gilded moments to revisit as escapism. Looking back on my childhood, I see the gaps between nostalgic memories and the events that shaped me. It is in these in-between moments that fantasy and reality intersect. Also, it is where my work originates.

As children, everything seems magical. As we age and understand more of the world, that the magic lessens. The in-between, the habitation of time when the world is not quite magical anymore, but not a stagnant reality, expands.

My work explores the tangential relationships between boyhood, social expectations, queer culture, and heteronormative assimilationism. I use fantastical imagery to illustrate the shifting relationships we have with space and community as we grow and develop into our own persons. I have felt isolated in my life. What was once a safe warm home can become alien and cold and the abandoned places we avoided as children seem more and more welcoming. The history we want to connect to becomes more and more elusive as we struggle to also connect with the people around us. I make art to better understand how society has shaped me and how I will allow that to affect my present representation.

Through digital manipulation and processes, I create imagery that proposes narratives without conclusions. Snap shots of the in-between. This is achieved via layers of information combined in Photoshop: color, shadow, and object that work to obscure reality and paint my experience of the world in all its falsity.

BIO: Luke Blevins was born and raised in Southwest Missouri. He studied art at Missouri Southern State University before going on to get his Master of Arts at the University of Missouri Kansas City. He teaches at Crowder College in the evenings and works in Admissions at Missouri Southern during the day. When not juggling his numerous jobs he enjoys drawing, painting, and a good book.

FREE Mail Art Take-Home Kits!

We’re giving away Mail Art Take-Home Kits! Starting Thursday, July 1, 2021, you may pick up your kit from one of three places inside Joplin Public Library:

  • The Reference Desk (adult/teen kits)
  • The Teen Department (teen kits)
  • The Children’s Department (children’s kits)

Although the kits differ slightly, each contains everything you need to create one piece of mail art to mail in for the Post Mail Art Projekt: Show Me Mail Art exhibit, including a self-addressed stamped postcard.

Post Mail Art Projekt 2021: Show Me Mail Art (PMAP2021) is a collaboration between us, Connect2Culture, and Joplin Public Library. PMAP2021 is endorsed by Missouri 2021, an initiative of The State Historical Society of Missouri. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.

MAIL ART KIT CONTENTS

Adult Kit (collage postcard kit):

  • Five pages of magazine paper for collage material
  • One postcard with postage
  • One pair of travel scissors
  • One glue stick
  • One “Happy Mail” sticker
  • An instruction sheet

Teen Kit (watercolor postcard kit):

  • One watercolor postcard with postage
  • One set of washable watercolor paints
  • Extra watercolor paper
  • One “Happy Mail” sticker
  • An instruction sheet

Children’s Kit (hand-colored postcard kit):

  • One postcard with postage
  • One package of crayons
  • Exhibit coloring sheets
  • One “Happy Mail” sticker
  • An instruction sheet

Book Review: Good Mail Day by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler

In 2014, we put out a call for entry for mail art. The idea was to create a one-off exhibit of mail art received from all over the world to introduce locals to the medium and encourage their participation. At the time, I was myself somewhat new to engaging with mail art and my experience with the world-wide mail art Network – yes, that’s a thing – was limited at best. Yet there I was, helping to coordinate a mail art call for entry and co-curate the resulting show. Enter Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler’s Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art.

This book differs from other mail art books that I’ve read (such as Mail Me Art by Darren Di Lieto and Correspondence Art, edited by Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, both of which are wonderful) in that it’s not only a gallery of mail art, but a sort of mail art workshop, as the authors offer oodles of advice for how to make mail art, start a mail art project, and navigate the mail art world. Plus, it introduces readers to mail art terminology and, perhaps most importantly, mail art etiquette.

But what’s mail art? A basic, common definition of mail art (a.k.a. correspondence or postal art) is that mail art is when people send small-scale works of art to one another through the postal service, often with the package itself being considered the work of art. Frankly, that definition falls flat and fails to describe the vibrancy of this decades-long movement. In my experience, the best way to describe mail art is to hand someone a stack of it. The only sure thing about mail art is that it is, as Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler write, for everyone: “Anyone can be a mail artist, regardless of skill level or style of artwork.” The mail art itself is all over the place and all mediums are welcome. (The authors remind us, however, not to send anyone anything that we don’t want to deal with in our own mailboxes, such as perishable items.)

Although mail art is for everyone, the Network, like any other, has some basic rules. Namely, that “every piece of mail art that comes into your mailbox should receive some sort of acknowledgement in return.” That is, send something back! In the mail art world, this reciprocity is known as documentation. “No returns” is another tenet of mail art exchanges, meaning that each piece you receive is yours to keep, just as each piece you send out is someone else’s to keep. I appreciate that Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler tell us the rules and “Time-honored Traditions” of mail art culture at the start. It’s as if they’re telling us that if we cannot respect those rules, then we needn’t read further or participate.

Of course, there are non-Network rules that mail artists must abide by, such as those of the postal service (or services, when mailing internationally). As such, we’re reminded to become familiar with our local postal regulations and to keep in mind that mail is categorized based not only on shape, but on thickness and weight. For example, if an envelope exceeds the maximum dimensions or thickness, then it may be categorized as a package and, accordingly, require more postage. The chapter that touches on regulations also includes “The Ten Commandments of Mail Art,” “The Seven Sins of Mailing,” and “Seven Suggestions for Shepherding Your Mail Art Safely to Its Destination.” You’ll also find tips on wooing your mail carrier and becoming friends with those who work in the post office.

The bulk of the book isn’t about defining mail art or mail art rules, but about having fun and making mail art. A few pages cover turning everyday objects, such as produce stickers, wrappers, leaves, and bird feathers into mailable mail art. What to do with those old dryer sheets? Mail them! As the authors discovered, they make for durable mail art. The point is that you may creatively make use of whatever you have nearby and whatever you find laying around, like found objects, old catalogs, junk mail, etc.

Ideas for decorating and illustrating envelopes, whether ready-made or those you create yourself, are included in this title, as are other techniques, such as paper-folding, texturing, and creating patterns, as well as stenciling, faux postage and artistamps, refining your handwriting, finding pen pals, and developing your postal personality.

My old friend, Chapter 10, details how to start a mail art project of your own, including writing a call for entry, creating documentation, and developing a correspondence register, which is more involved than keeping a list or address book of mail art contacts because it has more information. For example, a correspondence register might have columns for name, address, what you received, when you received it, what you sent back, when you sent it, and any other tidbits that you’d care to include. Trust, when coordinating a mail art project, which involves sending documentation (i.e. mail art thank yous) to those who send to you, a register is handy!

“You Can Take It with You: The Traveling Mail Art Kit,” is one of my favorite chapters. In the chapter, the authors emphasize that “mail art can happen anywhere, at any time, and in any place.” Think a waiting room that you’re stuck in, when you’re on hold making a phone call, or utilizing public transportation, or some such situation. The idea behind the mail art kit is that it’s possible to make mail art even when time is limited. The “Suggested Items for a Well-stocked Mail Art Kit” list is great, though your kit may contain whatever you like. What’s in my kit varies from time to time, though at minimum it includes stamps, stationary, and a few envelopes.

Peppered throughout the book are mini-interviews with mail artists from around the world, as well as great visuals, with the book ending with a mail art gallery followed by a contributor’s list, further resources, and an envelope template. Interestingly, the authors became friends when getting to know one another through mail art after meeting at a book arts event. Thus, the mail art that they’ve exchanged is a visual account of how their friendship developed—so cool!

So, is Good Mail Day a good primer for aspiring mail artists? Indeed, as it continues to guide me through what started as a one-off mail art project in 2014 and has since turned into an ongoing project for our growing collection. At the time of this writing, we have 300+ pieces of mail art from around the world in our collection and we’re about half-way into our third mail art exhibit, which is accompanied by an active call for entry. Visit us at www.postartlibrary.org to learn more about Post Mail Art Projekt 2021: Show Me Mail Art and check out Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler’s Good Mail Day to learn how to get started.

As always, happy reading. And happy mailing!

By Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan

2021 Summer Reading Art Challenge

It’s time for our Summer Reading Art Challenge (SRAC)! This year, the theme for summer reading is Tails & Tales. In keeping with that theme, the prompt for SRAC 2021 is:

“Tell Your Tale with Art! What’s the story of you?!”

Starting June 1, 2021 you may pick up your artboard and entry form from any public service desk inside Joplin Public Library. Entries will be accepted for three categories: Adult (ages 18+), Teen (entering 6th-12th grades), and Kids (birth-5th grade). Entries must be returned to any public service desk within the library by 5pm on Sunday, July 31, 2021.

All SRAC 2021 entries will be exhibited in the Genealogy, Local History, and Post Reading Room wing inside the library from August 14-September 25, 2021. People’s Choice ballots for each category will be collected in the library during the exhibit. People’s Choice winners will be announced on October 1, 2021 and those winners will receive a prize when they pick up their artwork.

Participation is FREE and open to the public. A library card is NOT necessary. SRAC is an annual art challenge and show meant to encourage exploration of the visual arts through creating art based on Missouri’s state-wide theme for summer reading. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.

Book Review: Historic Missouri Roadsides by Bill Hart

This book review is a celebration of sorts of both the Missouri Bicentennial (2021) and National Preservation Month, also known as Historic Preservation Month (May). In Historic Missouri Roadsides, author, historian, and preservationist Bill Hart takes us on a two-lane highway trip through several of Missouri’s small-town destinations, introducing us to, or reacquainting us with, what they have to offer.

Before taking us on the road, Hart breaks down the “how to” of using his book, pointing out that how long each trip takes to complete is, in fact, up to the traveler. Each stop along two-lane Missouri includes basic historical information about the place, suggestions for where to eat and stay, as well as for where to visit and what to do. Hart reminds us that these trips are meant to be leisurely rather than a race from point A to point B: “Chill. You’re not traveling on two lanes to win any races […].”

These adventures are arranged neatly into six road trips: Missouri Highway 79 / The River Road; El Camino Real; Route 100 / Gottfried Duden & the Lewis and Clark Trail; Osage Hills and Prairies; Mostly Route 24; and The Platte Purchase. Each tour begins with a summary about the trip and information about where, exactly, to start, and each town visited within a given tour clearly directs us to the next town. Although it is possible to reach some of these points using freeways, I recommend following Hart’s directions, as exploring what’s along our byways (rather than the sameness of our freeways) is the beauty of venturing out in the first place.

I feel a special kinship with this book as I start to travel about again. It’s a fantastic resource for those of us who wish to start by seeing what the places close to home have to show us. One of my favorite things about this title is that the largest city we’re guided through is St. Joseph, with a current population of about 73,400, give or take, whereas the smallest cities are only in the double digits.

Don’t get me wrong – I love visiting Kansas City, St. Louis, and other larger Missouri cities – but Missouri has much outside of those cities to show us. For example, a 1910 Beaux Arts-style post office in Nevada; the historic Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs; a theatre in Blackwater, where productions written and directed by a local playwright are featured and locals serve free punch and cake during intermission; and landmark bluffs and other natural sites in tiny towns like Arrow Rock. We may even opt for additional “side trips” that take us into more remote areas of the State, such as Lithium, which, once upon a time, was a Victorian resort town.

Hart touches on the prehistory of Missouri, mentioning which Indian tribes traversed which areas before European American settlement, as well as tells the story of town names and sites that take their name from Native American and early European American history. He also makes mention of conservation areas, national register listings and districts, state parks and historic sites, persons of note, and more.

Not to mention the wonderful photographs, which enhance the stories of these lesser-known Missouri places. Check out the magnificent 1884 Second Empire Federal Courthouse on page 20, the picturesque view from the Fourche à Duclos Roadside Park on page 43, or the Old Dutch Hotel and Tavern’s neon sign in Washington on page 86.

It’s worth mentioning that two editions of this book are published and that the second edition is expanded to include “Destinations,” which are meant as stand-alone places to visit rather than a guided road trip. These destinations include St. Joseph, Glasgow, The Boonslick area, Fulton, Sedalia, and the Arcadia Valley.

As noted in his foreword, this book is “a travel book, a history book, a photography book, and more.” Indeed, it is all that and more. It is an opposition to what Hart describes as “Generica,” or the commodification of place and product. The fast-food chains and big-box stores found along our freeways and in our commercial districts, for example, all of which look the same regardless of locale. Hart encourages us to turn away from Generica for the uniqueness of “what lies right beneath [our] noses here in the Show-Me State.” Not only does he encourage us in this direction, but he literally tells us how to get there.

Happy trails and, as always, happy reading.

By Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan