What is Speak Up, Scale Down? How are you involved with it? Hold your horses, we will get to that but first I need to give you a bit of context.


A few years ago, let’s say 2015, I started showing some of my art in Benson, my first show being a group show at Star Deli. At the time I was making a ton of art because of all of the art classes I was taking. I figured since I had work, I might as well show it to someone. This one show slowly snowballed into a dozen shows in town, being published in a few local publications, and then eventually showing in other states. For a full list of my shows you can visit the about page.


Fast forward to 2018, and I found myself volunteering for a non-profit organization called Benson First Friday, which helps artists gain exposure through art shows and events in Benson. Within a few months I was then asked to become a project lead for the organization, so I took over the SWAG project. The goal of the swag project is to support artists and help them gain exposure by printing their designs on apparel as well as paying them.


Upon graduating school and finding a job, I kept in touch with former classmates and as I was doing so, I was finding that I got super lucky when it came to finding a job. The more I thought about it, I slowly came to the conclusion that a lot of artists find it intimidating to show their work, and that can sometimes hold them back. One of the reasons I potentially ended up where I was, could be because I started showing my work early on, and getting as much feedback and exposure as possible.


From these thoughts, I wanted to make sure more graphic design and art students had chances to gain exposure through art shows, and what better way to do it than through the organization I was volunteering for? With this goal in mind, I met with Ashley McFeely, a design professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and proposed a joint project where graphic design students could create designs in class and Benson First Friday would provide a platform for them to show their work, being an art show. Ashley loved the idea and got me in contact with Michael Stevens and Megan Timanus, also design professors at UNO, and we started brainstorming.


Michael and I met a few times and finally landed on Speak Up, Scale Down as a theme for the design show. The idea was that the designers would create works that had a large impact but were small in size. We decided on the prompt “If you could change one thing about the world it would be…”. Once we had the idea for the show, I wanted to make the event even more public facing, so I invited a group of professionals from across the area to be involved.


As the show developed, Michael and I worked on the branding and then Megan suggested we use the new Riso Printer that UNO had just purchased, which happened to be the only one in the state. The other factor that had been put into place, was now that we were using the Riso printer, the designers could only choose from four colors, and only utilize two of them.


The professors and I gathered submissions from the students and professionals and then a panel of judges selected works for the show as well as awarded outstanding works. The Judges were myself, Ashley McFeely of UNO, and Shelby Audiss of Benson First Friday. Upon judging the show, 42 works were accepted and ready to print!


Megan Timanus headed the printing, Michael handled the trimming, and I spray coated and bagged 1500 prints for the show. It looked great. The show ended up being held at Petshop in Benson during the December 2018 First Friday event. Many people showed up, and quite a few prints were sold. All of the sales from the student prints went directly back to the students and the sales from the professionals acted as a fundraiser for Benson First Friday.


The event was a success, and it was awesome to see all of the support for both local emerging design talent, as well as the art scene in Benson in general. Through the show money was raised for the non-profit and students were able to show their work, gain exposure, and make money at a very early stage in their career. I had a great time concepting, organizing, and executing the event, and who knows, maybe we will do it again in the future! The little victories here added up, and I am proud of everyone involved.


One last note: I want to give a big THANK YOU to everyone involved. Without everyone’s support, the event would not have gone as smoothly as it did. Go check out all these local designers work, and definitely give Benson First Friday a visit! Also the prints from the show are available for sale at Lion’s Mane Vintage in Benson.