Free Poems and Functional Art: 50 Years of the Alternative Press

A postcard that reads Art in Detroit

Original postcard by Gordon Newton and Ken Mikolowski. From the Alternative Press Records, Special Collections Research Center.

Event Information

February 25th through June 2nd
Hatcher Graduate Library, Audubon Room
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Event Type

This exhibit presents work produced by The Alternative Press, from early free poems to the final issue of the mailings, as well as correspondence and drafts that provide unique insight into the process of producing these artworks. All materials are from The Alternative Press Records held in U-M Library's Special Collections Research Center.

In 1969, Ann and Ken Mikolowski set up a 1904 letterpress in their home and began The Alternative Press. After getting their start printing free broadsides of poetry, they began a series of experimental mailings: envelopes that included an assortment of bookmarks, broadsides, bumper stickers, and postcards.This spin on a literary or arts journal allowed for each mailing to contain a variety of design approaches and encouraged recipients to not just read and enjoy the mailings, but to integrate the works into their daily lives or pass poems along to friends and family.

The Alternative Press showcased work by artists and writers from Detroit’s Cass Corridor, publishing them alongside key voices from the Beat and Black Mountain schools of poetry. The mailings also came to include multiple original postcards, where writers and artists were set loose with 500 blank postcards to use however they liked. The completed cards were sent to subscribers, each getting a one-of-a-kind work of art that might use ink, photography, collage, or even ceramics.

Join us for an exhibit reception on Friday, March 15, at 4:30 p.m. in the Hatcher Gallery.

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Library Contact
Kristine Greive
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Last modified: 03/15/2019