A printmaker by trade with DWRI Letterpress, it’s not surprising that text is a prominent feature of Lois Harada’s work. Bold lettering and refreshingly blunt messaging riff off of propaganda-style posters that have taken Providence store windows and high foot-traffic spaces by storm these past couple of turbulent years. Many will remember the “STOP ASIAN HATE” posters that circulated in response to the fatal shootings targeting Asian women in Georgia in March 2021. A series of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” posters were also churned out at the letterpress and distributed to marchers following the killing of George Floyd in June 2020.
Harada is behind these ubiquitous pieces and others. In 2022, she has plans to go bigger, and to continue ongoing projects that serve the dual purposes of aesthetic and protest.
This includes a project she started in 2019 in an effort to rename Victory Day, the August holiday related to Victory in Japan Day (though this day is technically September 9) that Rhode Island is the only state to recognize. “As someone of Japanese American descent, the day has never sat well with me and was a confusing thing when I moved here,” Harada explains of the shift she’s noticed in its theme, from remembrance to enjoying a day at the beach. She began with posters suggesting name changes and culminated with a banner-towing plane displaying the message #RENAMEVICTORYDAY. “It was a great opportunity to scale up my work and experiment with different forms of engagement.”
Funded by an Interlace Grant, a Providence-based organization supporting visual artists, Harada looks forward to a new project, WISH YOU WERE HERE, paying homage to those – like her paternal grandmother – imprisoned in Japanese internment camps during WWII. A series of WPA-style travel posters depicting sites of incarceration will be accompanied by the interactive element of a penny press machine.
Also on the horizon is a new medium for Harada: a basketball court. Working with My HomeCourt at Davis Park, Harada is excited for the chance to create an installation that Smith Hill neighbors and Nathaniel Greene Middle School students will interact with in their daily lives.
The nationally and internationally showing artist is also preparing for a five-week residency in Colorado this spring, though Providence is cemented as her home base. She served on the New Urban Arts board for seven years, with her last two years as board chair, and this year looks forward to her second term as city commissioner with the Art in City Life Commission. “I’m learning a lot about public art in the city and have really enjoyed working with other artists and the fabulous staff of the Arts, Culture, Tourism Department,” says Harada. “Providence has many opportunities for support in the arts and I’m glad to be a part of the commission.”
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