Beehive Collective Buzzes with Creative Juices

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Beehive Design Collective specializes in telling complex stories through fantastically creative graphic story telling. The collective, which formed in Maine more than a decade ago, undertakes extensive research to develop artworks about issues such as globalization and environmental injustices. We asked one of the Bees to describe the process. 

We see ourselves as word-to-image translators. All of our graphics are collaboratively produced through first-hand research with the impacted communities’ stories we are telling, many hours of collective mental mapping-brainstorming-designing, and the illustration and inking that involves multiple drafts that are okayed by the same communities. Once finished, the work of distributing back to the communities who shared their stories as well as other interested people begins. All the work produced by the Beehive is “creative commons” and can be used and reproduced by others for non-profit purposes. Beyond being art, our graphic campaigns are an accessible, multi-lingual/multi-cultural, easily reproduced, dynamic tool for popular education, grassroots communications and community organizing. 

A section of the Mesomerica Resiste graphic by the Beehive Collective.
A section of the Mesomerica Resiste graphic by the Beehive Collective.

The Collective has spent the better part of our 12 years of existence working on our Trilogy of Globalization in the Americas. The first installment tells the story of the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the impacts of neoliberal economic policies. The graphic campaign of Plan Colombia tells the stories of militarization as a smokescreen for resource grabs. The final installment, now in the process of being launched, is Mesoamerica Resiste. We also have the True Cost of Coal, created to tell the history of Appalachia and the impacts of the coal industry, mountaintop removal and climate change. Our graphic campaigns are accompanied by story telling. 

Mesoamerica Resiste – the result of nine years of work – tells the story of the communities most impacted by the policies of Proyecto Mesoamerica (once known as Plan Puebla Panama). We did an initial research tour from Mexico to Panama, listening to the experiences of these communities. We also had conversations with academics, researchers, scientists, solidarity groups, community organizers and others to create this graphic. It tells the stories of a region under the assault of resource extraction, cultural homogenization, violence and displacement, and the responses of community organizing, direct action, struggle, resistance and celebration. These stories are the latest chapter in a process that started with historical European colonization, the coffee and banana industries of multiple centuries, the US-backed military interventions and drug wars.  

Our graphic campaigns tell the stories of hundreds of peoples and communities whose stories of repression and violence are eclipsed by their resilience and perseverance for autonomy, self-determination and liberation. The creation of each graphic campaign is the creation of a new art-organizing tool for the use and support of the communities living the realities depicted in the graphic, as well as a learning tool for people and communities elsewhere who may think their realities are disconnected to the stories in the graphics when in fact they are interconnected and are capable of creating relationships of solidarity.

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