Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., printer, artist, philosopher and activist, will conduct workshops on letterpress printing at Underground Ink on the campus of University of Arkansas - Fort Smith on Feb. 28 and March 2.
Kennedy’s visit is a joint initiative of the Art Department on the UAFS campus and the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, according to Dr. Henry Rinne of Fort Smith, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UAFS.
Katie Harper of Fort Smith, assistant professor of graphic design, oversees the operations of Underground Ink, the letterpress and book arts teaching venue in the lower level of the Gardner Building.
Harper said Kennedy will also visit the Fayetteville campus. His visit to Arkansas is part of the celebration of African American History month on both campuses.
“We read road signs all the time that tell us to ‘proceed with caution,’ and that’s the accustomed instruction we live with,” said Harper. “Amos Kennedy lives by the motto, ‘proceed and be bold,’ and that kind of tells you what kind of person he is.”
Kennedy will work with UAFS students on Feb. 28 and give a free public lecture at 5:30 p.m. in the Boreham Conference Center, room 101 of the Baldor Technology Center. He will teach a free all-day letterpress workshop March 2. Reservations are required because of limited space.
Kennedy was a successful computer programmer for AT&T when he saw an operating antique letterpress in Williamsburg, Va., according to his biography. The process of letterpress stopped him dead in his tracks, and he changed his career at the age of 40.
Today, Kennedy operates Kennedy Prints, a highly-regarded letterpress poster shop. He started in a nondescript storefront operation in Gordo, Ala., and is now preparing to move his business to Detroit, Mich., where he plans to open the Detroit Printing Plant. This large facility will house printing presses, bindery equipment and machinery to hand make paper. Kennedy is now raising funds to complete this project.
His visit to UAFS is intended to enrich the student experience and focus community attention on the exciting possibilities evolving from the letterpress fine printing renaissance, Harper said.
Kennedy, who is a master of his craft, uses letterpress printing to earn a living and advance the causes that resonate with his personal philosophies, according to Harper.
“I think many people who come in contact with the sight, the smell and the mechanical action of letterpress printing wind up with ink in their blood,” Harper said. “Amos Paul Kennedy is the ultimate example of this.”
Harper said that the mechanical action and physical forces of letterpress printing give it the capacity to produce items of wonderful beauty. She said the craft was largely fading until the 1990s when people began to rediscover how beautiful and distinctive letterpress invitations and stationery can be.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students and the public alike to learn more about the problems and potential of letterpress printing,” Harper said.
As dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rinne said he is very happy to see this project for the letterpress initiative, which he said is in its initial stages.
“This is another element of the growing art and design program at University of Arkansas - Fort Smith,” Rinne said. “This craft presents employment opportunities for our graduates. Bringing Amos Kennedy to our campus for a session with our students and another all-day session with our students and the general public is a terrific accomplishment for us. It’s another way we are giving our students experiences that they won’t get anywhere else.”
To reserve space in the workshop March 2, call Harper at 479-788-7333.