Printer Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. Addresses Civil Rights In New Exhibition

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While dressed in his signature blue jean overalls, pink dress shirt and brown cowboy boots, Detroit-based printer Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. engaged his Ohio University Kennedy Museum of Art (KMA) gallery talk audience by taking them behind the curtain of his Lyrics of My People exhibition.

Among the items he discussed during his one-hour talk on Sept. 19 were the origins of his career, little-known facts about the Black Civil Rights Movement and the motives behind his beautiful, thought-provoking prints.

Kennedy, a letterpress printer, papermaker and book builder, left his job as a successful computer programmer at age 40 to pursue a career in art and printmaking after he saw a printing press at work during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Va., with his son.

He began his talk by explaining the purpose behind the 546 educational posters that line the walls in one of KMA's largest galleries. The posters include 12 different African proverbs printed on unique primary colored backgrounds. Kennedy said they were created to share wisdom and knowledge with their audience.

A native of Alabama, Kennedy said he worked on the posters for most of the summer because he sends each poster through the press about six times before he prints the black text and borders.

"This exhibition is something I've always had in my head for some time," Kennedy said. "To have such a huge space covered in posters is just the coolest thing in the world. It's eye candy."

Kennedy said one of the benefits of "making stuff" is that it requires you to learn.

"If you engage in a project, you end up doing research and then it becomes a great educational experience," he said. 

In the second KMA gallery, Kennedy's pieces include posters with quotes and words attributed to civil rights activist Rosa Louise Parks. There are also several large maps of the United States with the names, ages and dates of death of the six victims who died during the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Sept. 15, 1963.

Three large maps on another wall have words printed on them that Martin Luther King Jr. called the triple evils that will one day destroy our nation. The words are racism, militarism and extreme materialism.

Kennedy said he has always done projects about the Black Civil Rights Movement since becoming a printer. Last year, he printed 134 hand fans in honor of the 134 people who were killed in the name of civil rights between 1946 and 1968.

"The Civil Rights Movement is greatly misunderstood and greatly underappreciated for what it did for this nation," Kennedy said.

Kennedy will return to campus on Thursday, Dec. 4, to sign and sell the letterpress posters off the KMA walls for $20 each. The first-come, first-served sale will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

"I invited Amos Kennedy because when he was on campus for one week last year as a visiting artist for the School of Art, I thought he has something to say, his work is visually appealing and he has a great personality," said Petra Kralickova, KMA curator.

New York-based artist Jaimie Warren also attended the fall kickoff event to promote her two-part exhibition, "Ermahgerd," which opened on Sept. 4 in the Trisolini Gallery in Baker University Center and on Sept. 12 in KMA. Both exhibitions run until Dec. 21.

All of Warren's exhibition photos are self-portraits of her in a variety of interesting uniforms and settings. She uses handmade costumes and extensive makeup to impersonate what she calls "Internet distorted celebrities." During her four-day visit to campus, she worked with art students and conducted two artist talks, one in each gallery.

Kralickova said Warren's exhibition was split up as a marketing strategy to entice the people who enjoy her work in one gallery to visit the other gallery to see her remaining pieces.

"We try to bring artists in the galleries who bring something new to campus," Kralickova said. "What I try to do with our art galleries is combine a variety of artworks that appeal to a variety of audiences." 

These are the seven art exhibitions showing at KMA this fall with their run dates:

Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.: Lyrics of My People (Sept. 19-Jan. 4, 2015)

Jaimie Warren: Ermahgerd, part 2 (Sept. 12-Dec. 21)

Women III: Women Artists in the Kennedy Museum of Art Collection (Sept. 5-Jan. 18, 2015)

Kim Abeles: frugalworld (Sept. 5-Jan. 18, 2015)

Jenny Holzer: Truisms (Aug. 15-Jan. 18, 2015)

Clarence H. White: Pictorial Images of Women (Aug. 22-Dec. 14)

The Bridge Club: The Trailer (Sept. 5-Jan. 18, 2015)

For more information, contact the Kennedy Museum of Art at 740-593-1304 or visit

The article orginally appeared on Ohio University's Compass. Photos courtesy of the Kennedy Museum of Art.