Last summer, YES! Magazine and the New Economy Coalition set out to solve a problem both of us kept encountering: Why don’t we have better images to tell the story of the new economy?
Why don’t we have better images to tell the story of the new economy?
Both of our organizations tell stories about the new economy all the time. But key movement concepts like localism, shared wealth, and cooperation are hard to visualize. We found ourselves falling back on images of windmills, farmers markets, and community gardens.
Beautiful as those images can be—and as important as it is to tell those stories in their own right—none of them captured the incredible diversity of people and activities gathered under the umbrella of the new economy: Californians collaborating to take back their energy grids from corporate monopolies, employees becoming owners of the companies they work for, racial justice organizers building power to make #BlackLivesMatter in city budgets, and so much more.
We felt that the new economy deserved better art. It needed the color, characters, and style that have enriched grassroots struggles from Occupy to the immigrant-rights movement. Someone needed to pull out a pen brush (or stylus and mouse) and bring the new economy to life on paper or in pixels.
So in the lead-up to last fall’s “New Economy Week 2015: From Austerity to Prosperity,” we asked NEC’s members, YES! readers, and anyone else who was interested to describe in words what the new economy movement looked like to them. More than 80 ideas arrived, written by everyone from self-described “birth activists” to biofuels entrepreneurs.
To translate the words into images, we enlisted two artists. YES! Lead Designer Jennifer Luxton had already blazed a trail in illustrating the new economy with her art for Keith Harrington’s “Checkerboard Revolutionaries” series. And we’d both wanted for years to collaborate with Bay Area-based artist and cultural organizer Favianna Rodriguez after seeing her work illustrate and energize some of the 21st century’s most important movements.
After sifting through your concepts, here’s what we came up with:
Jennifer Luxton’s “Together We Thrive” combines two concepts. One came from self-described “cancer survivor, creative, and contextual learner” Karen Tomlonson, who riffed on the idea that “We are all one; what hurts or damages one hurts and damages all.” The other came from Deyanira Del Rio, co-director of the New York City-based New Economy Project. Del Rio wanted an image “conveying that the new economy is not about ‘projects’ existing alongside the current unjust system—but about working toward transformative change for all.”
Favianna Rodriguez illustrated seminary student and radical librarian Pamela Kittredge’s vision of “caring for one another by sharing—ourselves [and] our resources.” Rodriguez worked from the prompt using images inspired by indigenous Latin American and African art. The tools, money, and musical instruments carried by the main character represent the new economy idea of opportunity for all.
Kate Aronoff is a Brooklyn-based writer covering climate and American politics. She is a fellow at the Type Media Center and a contributing writer for The Intercept.