Beehive Design Collective
The Beehive Design Collective is a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit arts organization that uses graphical media as educational tools to communicate stories of resistance to corporate globalization. The purpose of the group, based in Machias, Maine, is to "'Cross-pollinate the grassroots" by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images that can be used as educational and organizing tools. The Beehive Collective is most renowned for its large format pen and ink posters, which seek to provide a visual alternative to deconstruction of complicated social and political issues ranging from globalization, free trade, militarism, resource extraction, and biotechnology.
Construction and imageryThe Collective creates multi-issue, layered, seamless graphic campaigns addressing diverse geo- and socio-political issues. The extremely intricate illustrations are informed and developed through extensive firsthand research. For example: the most recent campaign was born of 4 months of travel and interviews stretching from Puebla, Mexico to parts of Panamá. A broad spectrum of people are interviewed, from students to union organizers, factory employees, agricultural workers, entomologists and more. The questions asked are equally diverse, the intent being to facilitate the discussion of how neoliberal policies and extant or proposed development projects are impacting communities on the ground in Latin America. The group adheres to numerous self-imposed rules during their campaign production, including absence of literal human depictions, ensurance of cross-cultural imagery, and avoidance of cultural appropriation.
The current trilogy in progress details globalization in the western hemisphere through a series of three graphics. The first, Free Trade Area of the Americas, defines and demystifies issues of free trade and privatization affecting the Americas. The trilogy continues with a revealing portrayal of the U.S. funded war on drugs. The trilogy finalé currently in progress details a series of megadevelopment and infrastructure projects proposed for the isthmus of Mesoamerica grouped under the moniker Plan Puebla Panamá.
PresentationStorytelling is a major facet of the Collective's educational work. Members of the group undertake international lecture circuits with giant fabric reproductions of their posters as storytelling aids. "Picture lectures" frequently feature a Plan Colombia graphic thirty feet in height and a 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) fabric flipbook/storybook used as a sequential visual tool in a style reminiscent of cantastoria. Audiences are led through a two-hour interactive, conversational presentation which follows a non-rigid path through the subjects covered in the graphic. Stories from interviews and intercambios with collaborators in Latin America are retold with additional information developed through extensive research. Presentations are currently given on the Free Trade Area of the Americas graphic, the Plan Colombia graphic, and the Mesoamerica Resiste graphic.
EducationThe in-progress graphic trilogy, when completed, will be compiled into a three part teacher's curriculum on globalization in the Western Hemisphere. The curriculum will double as a coloring-book project and will be directed at a target audience of middle school and high school students.
DistributionOne of the Beehive's major goals in their graphic distribution is to have 50% of each print run (full run averaging 20-30,000 prints) distributed to communities in the global south free of charge. The remaining half are distributed internationally for donations, which subsidizes the former. Posters are distributed at a wide range of venues including mass political and environmental mobilizations, social forums, protests, college and university campuses, and surprisingly even at high profile academic events such as the Association of American Geographers annual conference.
Anti-copyrightAll of the Beehive Collective's materials are distributed as anti-copyright, and their production is encouraged for non-profit, non-commercial use to assist in publications and productions. The ethic, as well as the black and white nature of the imagery is designed to assist and facilitate ease of reproduction for the work of activists agitating for social, economic, and environmental justice—especially those working in the Global South. The Beehive distributes free clip-art digital imagery via their website and graphic CD-ROMs distributed from their webstore and in person.
- Biodevastation (2000, redux 2002)
- Homogenization Puppeteer (2000)
- Free Trade Area of the Americas (2001, redux 2003)
- Plan Colombia (2002, redux 2003)
- Latin American Solidarity 2003 Conference (2003)
- Maine Social Forum (2006)
- Biojustice (2007)
- The True Cost of Coal (2010)
- Mesoamérica Resiste (2013)
Local activismSince the year 2000, the Collective has been engaged in the restoration of the Machias Valley Grange Hall, located in Machias, Maine., built in 1904, located adjacent to the "Bad Little Falls" from which the Washington County shiretown Machias draws its name. Initially utilized as the Collective's center of its nascent stone mosaics program, the goal and direction of the space changed dramatically towards the creation of a not-for-profit community cultural center to benefit Washington County, Maine.
Likewise, the Machias Valley Grange chapter (#360) was welcomed back to convene in their original building- whereas they had previously been displaced in the early 1990s due to the prohibitive cost of the Hall's restoration and upkeep. Annually, the Collective throws a no-cost dress-up dance party of immense proportions called the "Blackfly Ball". Members of the Collective and Grange Hall are consistently incorporating more low-cost and no-cost programming as part of the community offerings of the Grange Hall in addition to continuous ongoing happenings such as a weekly Open Mic night and annual Halloween celebration.
The entirety of restoration labor has been sourced from visiting volunteers from all parts of the United States, who have arrived during summer months per the Collective's requests. Funding for materials and equipment was raised exclusively through donations and honoraria received via the Collective's travels.
In the Spring of 2007, the Beehive Collective successfully placed the Machias Valley Grange Hall onto the National Register of Historic Places. By the end of 2007's summer, the group also received the prestigious honor of the Maine State Historic Preservation Excellence Award.
Two Collective members present a giant version of Plan Colombia at PNCA, Portland, Oregon.
the Beehive Collective's 6 ft. tall Plan Colombia poster
Our most ambitious graphic to date, 9 years in the making! This double-sided, folding poster illustrates stories of resistance, resilience, and solidarity from Mexico to Colombia. A map drawn in old colonial style depicts the modern invasion of megaprojects planned for the region… and opens to reveal the view from below, where communities are organizing locally and across borders to defend land and traditions, protect cultural and ecological diversity, and build alternative economies.
THE TRUE COST OF COAL
FREE TRADE AREA OF THE AMERICAS
One of the first posters made by the Beehive Design Collective, this graphic about Biotechnology not only investigates the genetic modification of life, but zooms out to create a narrative about the homogenization of culture, food, and our environment.
Another of the Beehive’s earliest graphics, this iconic monarch butterfly image was created in the Spring of 2000 as an outreach poster for the 4th Biodevastation mobilization, a gathering of the grassroots against the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual convention.
BioJustice was designed as a promotional poster for the Biodevastation conference that took place in Boston in 2007. The event was a gathering of the grassroots popular resistance to the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO) industry annual convention. It included a weeklong celebration of sustainable food, alternatives to corporate healthcare and highlighted a wealth of community-based alternatives.
Fueling Climate Chaos is a poster the Beehive made for friends at Rising Tide, a network of groups who take direct action against root causes of climate change and promote community-based solutions to the climate crisis.
This graphic was created in collaboration with the networks of the Latin American Solidarity Coalition for their mass mobilization in Washington DC in the spring of 2003.
This poster, with text translated into seven languages, was designed in 2008 to help build momentum for worldwide solidarity actions during the Group of 8 counter summit in Hokkaido, Japan.
This poster was designed to raise awareness for the 2011 Water Walk, a uniting of waters from all directions of the earth. The Eastern direction of the Water Walk that year started from Machias, Maine, where the Beehive is based. Anishinaabe people, caretakers of the eastern woodlands and great lakes, collected water from the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Hudson Bay in copper pails and carried it by hand to the shore of Lake Superior. Similar water walks have taken place annually since 2003 to call attention to our water and our role as caretakers of it.
This poster was the Beehive’s first full-color graphic, created in 2006 as the promotional poster for the Maine Social Forum, a convergence focused on strengthening networks and developing strategies for social, economic, and environmental justice in Maine.
This poster was designed for Defending Water for Life to educate about and mobilize against Nestle’s attempts to privatize water in Maine.
We’re getting sooooo excited for the 10th Annual Blackfly Ball, coming up next Saturday August 15th!
The Bees Swarm California using new and old images to tell stories of water privatization and resistance
..Visions of Long Memories...