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Poster kiosk

Syracuse New Times

Postcard material

Kiosk mock-up

Shakespeare poster

Our History
The Syracuse Poster Project was established in 2001 to help Syracuse make better use of its downtown poster panels. In an effort to become sustainable, the Project has since evolved into non-profit enterprise that generates value through public poster art.

Poster Panels
The city’s poster panels were installed in 1992, as part of a $10-million renovation of the downtown streetscape. The renovation included street lamps, trees, benches, curbing, and 29 poster panels along the sidewalks of Salina and Warren streets. The city intended the panels as advertising venues for downtown merchants. Instead, the panels fell into disuse.

Syr-Haikus Contest
Jim Emmons, the project’s founder, brought together two existing resources to produce illustrated poetry posters for the panels. Thanks to the Syracuse New Times, the city already had a tradition of people writing the three-line form of poetry known as haiku. In 1997, the arts weekly established an annual Syr-Haikus Contest, which invited readers to write haiku about the city. The contest produced Syracuse-themed haiku for nearly a decade. It was discontinued in 2006.

Syracuse University Connection
In addition to the Syr-Haikus tradition, Emmons was aware of an illustration tradition at Syracuse University. In 2000, the University’s alumni magazine ran a story about Professor Roger DeMuth and the postcard portfolios created by his advanced illustration students. The postcards, which advertised the students’ skills to prospective employers, bore the graphic sensibility of poster art. Emmons approached DeMuth about having students illustrate posters based on haiku. DeMuth found the idea appealing. They then got approval from the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, the agency that oversees the poster panels.

Call For Poetry
While the Poster Project built a foundation of haiku through the Syr-Haikus contest, it also developed its own annual solicitation of haiku, reaching out to writers in the local poetry community. This call for poetry takes place each summer, and usually brings in 80 haiku by the September deadline.

Funding the Project poses a challenge. We envisioned paying for production costs through corporate sponsorship, and soon covering costs through the sale of poster prints. Although we still aspire to that goal—and expect major gains through the reach of this web site—we have yet to become self-sufficient. Poster print sales cover approximately one third of our annual printing and production costs. We raise the remainder through charitable grants and corporate sponsorship. The project receives no government or institutional funding.

Cultural Relevance
The Poster Project must also rise to the challenge posed by contemporary media. How can a static, slowly-renewing medium, such as poster art, compete with the dynamic media of contemporary culture, such as on-line video?
We meet this task by creating relationships. A web of inspiration assures that the posters resonate with people: the poet conveying something of the city’s essence; the artist finding inspiration in the poet’s poem; the customer appreciating this marriage of poem and image. We expect customers to enjoy knowing, or being acquainted with, the people who created the posters, so we give customers a means of familiarity with the poets and artists. It’s hard to quantify the benefit of these connections, but we can say that they make our community a place of greater serendipity.



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