Sound and Vision

Powerhouse Poster Arcade offers concert ephemera while Midway 4EG Stage presents second-play performances

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MPMF’s Poster Expo 2012, the “Powerhouse Poster Arcade,” is modeled after the American Poster Institute’s ongoing FLATSTOCK series of exhibitions, which features the work of concert poster artists.

Run and organized by the folks at local Powerhouse Factories graphic design studio, like FLATSTOCK, which grew out of its association with regional music festivals like SXSW & Bonnaroo, MPMF’s Poster Arcade was a necessary outlet for all of the rock poster artists involved in the music festival’s promotion machine. Visual artists have long attempted to capture the spirit of their favorite music in 2-D form, and the focus for the Poster Arcade is rock-centric posters for bands that the music festival showcases.

Powerhouse co-founder Ben Nunery says, much like the festival, organizers wanted to maintain regional roots but cultivate a national draw. “We want as many local people involved as possible because Cincinnati has such a cool poster scene,” Nunery says.

But they also made a list of friends with shops from around the country that they met at festivals throughout the year and sent invites out to nearly 40 people. Unlike the larger poster art exhibit forerunners, Powerhouse’s Poster Arcade doesn’t cost money for participating designers to exhibit, enticing more artists to spend the money to come into town for the event.

This year the lineup of participating designers includes Powerhouse, the screen-printing collective Southpaw Prints (based in Over-the-Rhine), Cincinnati-via-London bred illustrator/designer Tommy Sheehan, artist/printmaker Lil’ Tuffy (out of San Francisco but originally from the Midwest) and the “Kentucky Fried Art” of Jeral Tidwell. As the festival grows, so too will the Poster Arcade, Nunery says.

Powerhouse Factories started making posters for their favorite bands in 2004 and eventually expanded into branding and marketing for corporate clients. But poster printing was and is their first love.

“It’s actually still a cornerstone of our business,” says Powerhouse co-founder/co-owner Pat Jones.

Powerhouse handles the “commissioning” of each poster that participating artists design for the various MPMF shows, and usually a dozen or more limited edition posters are created for individual concerts.

The benefit for the bands involved is that they get propaganda for promoting their work. For participating print artists, they will forevermore have their names associated with musical acts they depict (who already have a built-in audience), and poster collectors acquire tangible evidence of an ephemeral event— kind of a win-win-win situation.

The Powerhouse Poster Arcade is part of the larger ArtWorks’ Box Truck Carnival at the MidPoint Midway, which takes over most of 12th Street between Vine and Walnut streets throughout the three-day festival. This year there will be free “second play” performances from MPMF artists at the Midway’s 4EG Stage, so visitors might get a fortuitous chance to see festival headliners at a free, all-ages accessible showing.

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