Reynolds Libraries & Tutoring Center unveils collection from world renowned printmaker Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.; displays them in newly renovated Tutoring Center Downtown.
As an artist, academic support librarian, and instructor, Jonathan Lee is often looking for places where each discipline overlaps. When the Downtown Tutoring Center opened, it struck Lee that there was an opportunity to brighten the space.
“Knowing how art and design can impact our mood and perception, I thought it was important to find something to put on the walls that could uplift our community and transform the space,” he said. “That’s when the work of Detroit based printmaker Amos Paul Kennedy Jr came to mind.”
Amos Paul Kennedy Jr (born 1950, Louisiana) is a world-renowned letterpress artist whose colorful, socio-political prints both educate and motivate. Originally an AT&T systems analyst with a degree in mathematics, Kennedy Jr dedicated his life to print making after seeing a letterpress demonstration in Colonial Williamsburg at the age of 40. Collected by universities, museums, and libraries across the US, including the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art, his artwork addresses many themes that resonate with Reynolds students and reflect their experience. Utilizing layers of text and color, his chipboard posters feature proverbs, sayings, and quotes about race, art, and education.
Lee was first introduced to Kennedy Jr’s work through the documentary Proceed and Be Bold and was able to briefly meet him when he was included in the inaugural exhibition at VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art in 2018.
“I began collecting his work soon after, when pieces from the ICA exhibition became available to the public,” Lee said. “In October of 2021, I reached out to the artist to discuss acquiring additional pieces for our Tutoring Center. He graciously donated 15 prints. Over the next few months, I was able to obtain dozens more from other sources. On 2/22/22, I officially donated 50 to Reynolds.”
The fifty prints, including 16 from the ICA exhibition, are now on display in the four rooms that make up the Downtown Tutoring Center.
Beyond their physical presence in the space, an online digital repository was created by Will Weaver, Web Services Librarian, using high quality digital scans of the prints. This multi-disciplinary repository contains not just images and descriptions, but related information like where the saying or quote came from and links to associated library resources. Tutoring support specialist, Molly Huey, was a pivotal contributor in compiling the repository metadata. Faculty could potentially use the repository for writing assignments or to introduce an idea, concept, or person. Furthermore, it’s something the larger research community could utilize in addition to the general public.
“As Reynolds Community College celebrates its 50th year, we look not just at the past but toward the future. What kind of college do we want to be going forward and what types of opportunities do we want to provide? I believe the goal is a holistic one: to lift our students up in a multitude of ways, providing affordable enrichment opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. This collection does just that.” -J. Lee