Lonely Planet Writer

You can borrow a protest banner from Chicago's newest lending library

For anyone inspired to take to the streets for a peaceful protest, but daunted by the prospect of creating a powerful or creative enough sign, Aram Han Sifuentes has got you covered. The textile artist recently established the brilliant Protest Banner Lending Library in Chicago.

Aram Han Sifuentes' banner-making project in Chicago
Protest Banner Lending Library. Photo by eedahahm/JAHHM

Inspired by recent events in the USA, Sifuentes, who was born in South Korea and raised in California, began channelling her frustration and energy into making protest banners in her apartment. Soon small group gatherings of equally frustrated friends became public meetings, in which Sifuentes and her fellow collaborators Verónica Casado Hernández, Ishita Dharap, and Tabitha Anne Kunkes lead communal sewing workshops, providing attendees with fabrics, stencils, scissors, and other materials for making original banners. The vibrant, handmade signs tout slogans like “Love Resists” and “Vote For Women.”

“We are fighting together and it is for the long haul,” says Sifuentes, who also is a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “We are making banners together. If you can’t make one, other will make one for you to check out. If you can’t go to protests, others will take it out for you. We are all in this together.” The protest banner lending library can certainly come to your rescue if you’re strictly looking for an inventive sign, or, as the artist points out, can help folks who aren’t able to physically take to the streets feel more connected to a cause.

The collection of banners — which are notably made from more durable cloth instead of disposable paper or posterboard, signifying the “long haul” — now lives at the Alphawood Gallery in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood (through 16 November), where anyone can check out, use, and return one. The library even has a box filled with index cards — one for each sign — marked with who made and checked out each one, and where it was used.

The project has made appearances at galleries, museums, and other places, including the Chicago Cultural Center and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Sifuentes says the library will expand to other cities, including Boston, and a Philadelphia branch is expected in February 2018.