Mobilising Communities: Laura Rojas

In this Creative in Residence profile, we speak with Laura Rojas, a Colombian-born, Toronto-based artist who uses graphic design as a tool for education and activism. She tells us about her introduction to the world of zine-making as well as her upcoming project as part of the Ontario Culture Days 2021 Festival.

Credit: Laura Rojas

Laura’s entry into the world of zines was serendipitous. “When I first moved to Toronto in 2012, I spent some time at Ryerson University. There was a student-run zine called The Continuist— at the time, I was really interested in writing and poetry, and I joined their team because they were publishing some really cool stuff.”

“After that, it was pretty organic. I would collaborate on the student zine, we would sell copies at zine fairs, I met other DIY publishers, and made zines on my own and with friends. It was just a lot of fun. Then, almost working backwards, I learnt more about the social and political history of these DIY publications, got interested in browsing graphic archives, and carried that interest with me into the present.” 

Previously, we featured Laura’s conversation with Jesse Purcell about the role of arts in advocacy, where she traces the lineage and possibilities of protest graphics.

Getting involved in zines sparked Laura’s focus on exploring how radical images can be used to build community and support change. For her 2021 residency with Ontario Culture Days, Laura will dive into the history and power of protest posters, discussing and sharing ideas from fellow designers.

“At one point, I felt a heavy pressure to draw a distinction between graphic design and art as two separate entities, but that never felt right. The more I got interested in posters and these types of graphics, the more I realized that the two elements need each other, especially when it comes to amplifying a message.”

“In my opinion, art is the spirit, the concept that holds the work together and carries a piece forward. Design gives the concept structure and clarity.”

Credit: Laura Rojas

Laura’s festival program will take place at the Toronto Public Library North York Central branch, where she will lead poster design workshops, exploring the role of radical graphics as a vehicle for memory, advocacy, and resistance in social movements. Participants will be encouraged to speak to causes they feel passionate about, keeping with the themes of community building and mobilization.

Acknowledging the grassroots nature of art in protest, Laura adds, “Even though my path took me through art school, I’m against the idea that anyone needs so-called institutional training to be good at any of these things. It’s about feeling visual balance and harmony, and I think that comes naturally to anyone that’s open to it.”

In a final postering event, attendees will be invited to share their creations both in local neighbourhoods and online with the wider public.

Header photo: Laura Rojas

You can check out our 2021 Creatives in Residence line-up here.

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