Art in service of activism – Stephanie Weiner in the StudioApril 19, 2019
For Stephanie Weiner, art and activism intricately shape both her view of the world and her contribution within it. Since 2005, she has created politically relevant posters, clothing, and gifts sold through her online shop Revolutionary Lemonade Stand. Looking back at every stage in her life, she can clearly trace her introduction to and ongoing practice of combining art and the pursuit of social change.
“My parents were both creative people and activists – they were writers and I remember my mother creating a collection of children’s poetry against the Vietnam War,” Stephanie explains, “I was always doing political work, in college I participated in student activism, as a teacher I was involved in the teacher’s union, in the neighborhood I worked on activism against police brutality, and afterwards did work with international solidarity movements.”
On her first artist residency, Stephanie worked in WSW’s silkscreen studios to reimagine the relation of art in the service of activism. Taking a step back after ten years as an active member of the social justice group Comite Exigimos Justicia, Stephanie is now leaning into the role of art as a tool to document.
“For a long time I had a lot of classical ideas of what art for social justice should be about, and felt that if it was not for an actual campaign, then it wasn’t as important,” Stephanie explains, “I am now opening my mind to different forms of justice by going back, elevating and archiving past moments, so they are not forgotten.”
Started in Chicago by the families of wrongly convicted prisoners, Comite Exigimos Justicia advocated for the reopening of contestable cases and the prosecution of unprincipled police officers. Through ongoing protests, meetings with government officials, and partnerships with other community organizations, the group achieved thirteen exonerations of wrongly convicted gang-related crimes and continues to strive for more. After creatively supporting the organization for ten years, Stephanie adapted a new trajectory during her residency at WSW where she challenged herself to visualize some of the unseen aspects of the movement. On large sheets of paper, she created three color woodcut prints that focused on a group of women who cooked together to fundraise for the organization’s activities. In another poster Stephanie screen-printed an image of one of the founders speaking at a protest to give due credit to the initiators of the movement. By highlighting the often unrecognized labor performed by women, Stephanie centered the untold narratives of Comite Exigomos Justicia.
“I would like to make art whose emphasis is on the people that fight for justice and not be overwhelmed by the challenges. I would like for my art to be inspiring, brave and defiant.”
Stephanie Weiner is an activist and artist from Chicago. She has focused on peace and justice silkscreen items at social justice events and through her online and Pilsen store called The Revolutionary Lemonade Stand. Her hand screened playful movement swag have found their way into many picket lines as well as kindergarten classrooms.
Her more recent prints developed through Hyde Park Art Center’s Printing for the People classes as well as a 2018 Penland printing class focus on the issues of wrongful convictions. This series has been designed with and for the families and exonerees that they are about. In fact, one of the posters is an actual collaboration with an artist who has been incarcerated for 21 years for a crime he did not commit.