Celebrating the Art of Resistance with Tom Morello

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics recently hosted its 2012 Annual Party Auction and “Art is a Hammer” Award Ceremony.  With over 75,000 posters, the CSPG archive is the largest collection of Post World War II graphics in the United States.  The Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG) collects, preserves, and exhibits posters relating to historical and contemporary movements for social change.

CSPG Annual Auction Volunteer 2012 © Estée Ochoa

I did not think it was possible to top last’s years event that honored art activist Doug Minkler and cultural icon Angela Davis, but founder and director, Carol Wells and the team over at the CSPG, worked tirelessly to produce an outstanding event that took place at the Musicians Union in Hollywood, California.  This year the center presented poster artist Andy Zermeno with the “Art is a Hammer” Award.

Andy Zermeño was a political cartoonist and graphic designer noted for his contributions to El Malcriado, a periodical produced by the United Farm Workers of America. He grew up in an agricultural working class neighborhood where he was introduced to the grassroots civil rights movement and Union founding father, Cesar Chavez. At Chavez’ request, Andy began designing posters and other graphics for the United Farm Workers where he continued to contribute for 14 more years.

Zermeno, Mariachi 2002

The “Historian of the Lions” Award went to the amazing scholar, activist and documentary filmmaker Joan Sekler. Sekler is a founder of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center, a worldwide network of independent journalists and videographers who produce media on political and social issues. Ms. Sekler has been an associate producer and/or publicist for numerous political documentaries including the Academy Award winning film, The Panama Deception and Yellow Wasps: Anatomy of a War Crime, about the war in Bosnia. She was also director and producer of Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election and Locked Out about the struggle of unionized miners in Boron, California against the multinational Rio Tinto Group.


This year’s “Aris & Carolyn Anagnos Culture of Liberation” Award was presented to activist/musician Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Morello is lead guitarist in Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and Street Sweeper Social Club. The event culminated with an intimate acoustic performance from the Nightwatchman aka, Morello’s solo act.  In 2002, Tom co-founded Axis of Justice with Serj Tankian of System of a Down, bringing together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice.

Tom Morello @ the Musicians Union © Estée Ochoa

Activist Mary Morello @ the CSPG Annual Auction © Estée Ochoa

There has never been a movement for social change without the arts—music, poetry, theater, posters–being central to that movement. Political posters in particular are powerful living reminders of struggles worldwide for peace and justice. Communication, exhortation, persuasion, instruction, celebration, warning: graphic art broadcasts its messages through bold images and striking designs. University, museum, and public collections of this material are rare, and are seldom accessible to the public. CSPG is uniquely committed to widely exhibiting this rich visual record of social movements. Through its varied programs, the Center for Study of Political Graphics is reclaiming the power of art to educate and inspire people to action.


Photos by Estée Ochoa