WMC Fest Insider’s Guide: John Boilard & the 300 Hand-Printed Posters Coming to a City Near You
An Interview with John Boilard of the National Poster Retrospecticus
I can only assume you’re familiar with my friend JP by now.
Now, let’s talk to John!
Heather @ GO: Tell me a little bit about you and your background
Hello! My name is John Boilard. I design for print and the web, do front-end development, screenprint posters here and there and set up DIY art and music events. I began setting up shows and designing posters about 15 years ago in high school. From there I found my way to The Massachusetts College of Art and Design. It was during my last semester that my web design teacher Mike Swartz hired me at his budding web design studio. This was totally an unexpected deviation from the printmaking and print design path I was primed for. This opportunity felt like an important avenue to explore though. Today it feels great to be able to move between both worlds. As a result it feels like my web design and project management experience has informed so much of my event production and print work.
Heather @ GO: What inspired you to pursue this passion project and what is most fulfilling about it to you?
Bringing people together through art, music and design has always been a motivating factor for me. The majority of my passion projects are built around this theme.
The first Retrospecticus happened in Western Massachusetts in 2006. Our DIY venue of choice “The Shed” was closing and my friend Eric Hnatow suggested that I do a show of all my posters. The idea was to feature prints from the past 100 shows in my mother’s backyard shed. That was a pretty foreign idea to me at the time. It also felt too self-important. Who the heck was I to have a show to myself? My friend and partner in crime Michael Swiatlowski made a ton of these posters too. Why wouldn’t he be in on this? The idea of being a part of something larger and celebrating all Western Mass flyers, posters and shows felt more our speed. So that’s what we did. Mike, Eric and myself teamed up to host the Western Massachusetts Flyer Retrospecticus. The event Featured over 1,600 flyers and posters celebrating two decades worth of shows in the area.
By 2012 I had been living in Boston for a few years. Two friends asked if I’d like to do a similar show at their new gallery. By this point my awareness of the poster scene had expanded to a national level. For this jam the show would feature over 50 artists and over 150 posters celebrating events from all over the country. Another major difference was the fact that everything in the show was printed by hand.
Based on the enthusiasm around the Boston show it felt like it could be cool to bring The NPR around the country. It took close to a year to plan but eventually The NPR made it’s way around the U.S. for nine different one-night-only shows in 2013! Tour was insane on so many different levels. It was a hustle every single day but it made me want to tour more and more.
The most fulfilling aspects of The NPR? The fact that I’m able to put all my interests to use and be surrounded by so many talented artists and designers is incredible! Sometimes I can’t believe that this opportunity is even real. Traveling to new places with the show, seeing people get stoked on posters and printmaking (sometimes for the first time) is the best thing! It’s even better to see folks become inspired to make something great themselves!
Heather @ GO: Tell us all about what we can expect to see at the Fest
WMCF attendees can expect to see more than 300 hand-printed posters made by over 100 local, regional and national artists! The show features a ton of screen printed and letterpressed work. We have gig posters and art prints that span a pretty wide spectrum of visual styles and content. Everything on the walls is for sale so poster enthusiasts in attendance will be able to take home part of the show!
Heather @ GO: Why are you excited to be involved in WMC Fest?
WMCF feels like it embodies everything friends and I strived to create in our DIY shows back home in western mass. There wasn’t a lot going on in the small mill town where we grew up in Palmer Massachusetts. Friends and I had to make our own fun. It became clear at a young age that trying to blow up stuff in the backyard and causing mischief around town wasn’t the best use of our time. We used all that wild energy to put on shows and bring folks together through art and music. After sustaining that effort for a few years we’d see people from all over traveling to our small town. They were coming to us for these events. We no longer had to drive over an hour to do something fun or be with like minded people. Rad things were literally happening in our backyards or right down the street. WMCF achieves this on a much larger scale. It’s the idea of making the mid-west, and more specifically Cleveland a destination for awesome events, great art, music and design. It’s right on! Every city doesn’t have to be L.A. or NYC to have something special going on and draw a crowd. It’s empowering and inspiring!
Heather @ GO: What is your favorite part of being a creative maker?
I’d say it’s having the ability to dream up an idea, an event, a concept and turn it into something real and tangible. That’s an amazing experience. It’s even cooler if you’re able to share that with the community and somehow contribute to something larger.
Heather @ GO: What challenges have you faced in your life as a creative? How have those challenges molded you into who you are today?
Not settling for anything less than your vision of yourself, your work, your future or how you can contribute to the world is not exactly the path of least resistance. I feel like this is one of the biggest challenges in life—both as a creative and just being a person in the world. Not letting outside sources discourage creative pursuits is a total challenge too. I feel this is always something a creative has to wrangle to some degree. Doubt from others or from within can be tough. How much grit do you possess though? Is giving up even an option? What’s the alternative? I know some ideas can seem too weird or too far-fetched at times. In some cases your creative vision isn’t as clear to others and what you’re proposing just sounds like a giant risk to yourself, your career, your well being or most often, what is the norm.
I feel these challenges have molded me to be firm yet flexible in my pursuits. They have helped me see the importance of keeping an open mind. They have also taught me how to strike a balance between being pragmatic and dreaming big. I feel pairing all of this with my greater aspirations has led to a ton of hard work, actual blood, sweat and tears. But like the mythologist Joseph Campbell said: If you follow your bliss, doors will open where there were no doors before. I believe this to be totally true. My creative challenges have molded me to be more resilient, more confident, more pragmatic but also not afraid to dream up the craziest things and go for it. It’s empowering to create for a living. Being a creative problem solver is a skill that lends its self to tackling all of those non-creative endeavors as well. I couldn’t imagine taking any other path. Every week I think to myself “Holy crap, you’re in the arena, this is a great place to be! Sure, everything is a work in progress but you’re still here. Enjoy it. Do your best. Remain humble and grateful and everything will be rad.”
Further connect with JP and the NPR: