When Meredith Stern (whose artwork is also featured on the front cover) chooses where to live, she embraces the “act locally, think globally” ethos. That’s why, once she put down roots in Providence, Rhode Island, the printmaker and collage artist began naturally forming collaborations with fellow artists for social justice. A member of the JustSeeds artists’ collective since 2007, Stern has contributed to a variety of books, posters, group shows, and collaborative projects all focused on the struggle for justice. “Ever since college I’ve been involved in organizing at the same time as art. I see art and culture as an integral part of human life,” Stern says. Stern enjoys making things such as posters and smaller prints that people might use in their everyday lives, rather than for a gallery show that might be seen by a handful of folks. She aims to spread her posters’ messages widely, but her larger project is to rebuild the cultural wing of social justice movements.
Stern has had a lifelong connection to grassroots activism, but couldn’t understand why the movements of the 1990s and early 2000s didn’t seem to welcome her art. “It seemed that within activist circles, art and culture were dismissed as unnecessary,” she explains. “But art does play a role in promoting ethics, as a moral compass, and a reflection of society and the people within it. How,” she recalls thinking, “do I continue to make work that has a life, that has a place?” Stern says she believes that with the rise of Occupy and Black Lives Matter, social justice movements are beginning to make room for art. “I’m pretty excited that people are starting to see art and culture as part of social movements. To see that it’s all connected,” she says. When asked what she might turn to next in her art, Stern’s answer is clear: “Institutional racism is so massive. The only way that our society is going to move forward is if we head-on address institutional inequalities.” Stern is taking part in a collaborative project, Bridge to the Gulf, that links climate change and poverty with the lived experiences of people in the Gulf states.