The Children’s Book Review | November 15, 2019
Always inspiring is when a group of like-minded humans bands together to push for a cause that they whole-heartedly believe in, as is the way of The Pen and Ink Brigade. This band of trail-blazing activists all have something in common, they are women and they are artists. In a year in which a record number of women are running for office and are standing up for change, from Nancy Pelosi to AOC and The Squad, from Jacinda Ardern to Greta Thunberg, the dedicated women behind Pen and Ink Brigade have put together two back-to-back fundraiser art shows, PINK NYC and PINK SF. The Pink is Power art shows offer resounding, challenging, creative, and playful statements about being a woman in today’s world. Pen and Ink Brigade expects to raise over $25,000 from sales at both shows, with 75% of proceeds going to support Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight 2020, the not-for-profit org. dedicated to securing free safe, fair elections for next year’s pivotal voting year and beyond.
P I N K I S P O W E R highlights the work of women artists redefining and reclaiming the color pink. The shows feature a cadre of award-winning artists (many of them well-known children’s book illustrators). They focus on the theme of reclaiming and redefining the color pink—slashing the traditional/stereotypical qualities and associations with pink and reintroducing the color as one of fierce female leadership.
Carin Berger, The Pen and Ink Brigade’s fearless leader, and Salina Alko, the expert of extras, discuss the art show, how The Pen and Ink Brigade came to be, and what this pink community means to them. And here is the link should you want to support the fundraiser (don’t miss out on snatching up one of these fantastic original art pieces): https://www.dianakane.com/collections/pink-ny
Carin Berger: When we were discussing what pink means to all of us, we heard, ‘pink is power, pink is community, pink is the right to say yes (or no), pink is speaking your mind, pink is reclaiming our time, pink is what I say it is!’. After our first Blue Wave Project last year, we were inspired to go bigger, to go bicoastal, and we’re so excited at the energy and enthusiasm we’ve seen for this work, from both the art world and the general public.
Selina Alko: Carin, I am trying to recall how we became The Pen and Ink Brigade. What I remember is that we (a group of women illustrators – many of whom create children’s books) would get together to see art, talk shop, and cheer each other on. Then, after the 2016 election, we were all so depressed. It was hard for any of us to find hope, let alone make art. We marched in the first Women’s March and went to other protests. But still, we wanted to do more. Something more concrete. Carin, do you have anything to add to this and do you remember how the Blue Wave Project came to be?
Carin Berger: The name Pen and Ink Brigade was created for the first Women’s March. It was meant to be playful, but to also give us a sense of unity and connectedness as we marched. The march was cathartic. Finally, we weren’t all by ourselves, in shock and mourning. Together we were powerful. Each of us deeply admired the work and achievements of the other members, and we realized that, collectively, we were a F O R C E ! We also realized that we could harness our talents to create the change we wanted. That was when the Pen and Ink Brigade was really born. Our first initiative, just before the important 2018 midterm elections, was the Blue Wave Project. It was a fundraising art show to benefit VoteRiders, an NPO with the mission to ensure that all citizens can exercise their right to vote. Each member created an original blue wave, with the idea that together, we would create a great blue tsunami. The artwork sold, and we raised over $5000 in two short months from conception to the close of the show. The sense of empowerment was kind of addictive…
Selina: And now we are doing the PINK shows! In a year where women are playing an increasingly visible and empowered role in the world, we decided to create an art show to redefine and reclaim the color pink. Participating artists were asked to create a piece of original art that finished the statement: Pink is….
We all know and feel the power of images, so we decided to gather as many of us as we could to create original work to sell. We thought we could potentially raise money to help ensure inclusion and participation in this critical upcoming presidential election. Art directors and industry people love to own original art. Among the participants in PINK NYC and PINK SF are a large number of children’s book luminaries including a Caldecott Honor recipient, several New York Times best-selling author/illustrators, a winner of the New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Books, and other award-winning picture book creators. Carin, can you talk about how we expanded PINK to go bi-coastal bringing a second show to SF?
Carin: After the success of the Blue Wave Project, it became clear that we did have the ability to make a difference. Not only that, but it was also resoundingly clear that election results matter (both in negative and positive ways). We were feeling empowered and growing our efforts seemed like a pretty obvious thing to do. There was a lot of interest both from the art field and also from the press in the Pen and Ink Brigade. And, since I am spending this year in San Francisco, going bi-coastal made good sense. The Bay Area and the West Coast is teeming with talented children’s bookmakers. Before we knew it, we had quadrupled the number of participating artists and have more than quadrupled our fundraising potential. The art from the PINK shows is pretty astounding, and it allows people to purchase art that would otherwise sell for far more, with all of the proceeds going to Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight 2020. Selina, do you want to elaborate on why we chose to support Fair Fight 2020?
Selina: We realize that a huge component to why the election in 2016 had such a devastating outcome was due to voter suppression, particularly of voters of color and young voters. Fair Fight Action engages in voter mobilization and education activities and advocates for progressive issues; in addition, Fair Fight Action has mounted significant programs to combat voter suppression in Georgia and nationally. Not only do we believe in (and love!) everything that Stacey Abrams is fighting for, but we also feel that by backing this cause, we can potentially make a real, tangible difference. Carin, can you talk about how using our collective talents and energy to fight for change has also been professionally meaningful?
Carin: Being part of a team effort, where each of us can utilize our various skills, has been super rewarding. It has also been exhilarating to be able to bring together such a talented group of artists. One of Pen and Ink Brigade’s most important goals is to help raise the visibility of women artists. Self-promotion can be very difficult, but as a collective, we have found that we can amplify our voices, showcase our illustrations, and also work towards creating the kind of world we want to live in.
Link to Buy Art: https://www.dianakane.com/collections/pink-ny
For more information: https://www.penandinkbrigade.com/
This interview—Children’s Book Illustrators Creating Art for Progressive Change—was conducted between Carin Berger and Selina Alko, with the introduction by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Books with Activism, Carin Berger, Diversity, Elections, Illustrator Interviews, and Women’s History.