July 7, 2017
Allison Fisher is fingering through old wooden boxes filled with hand carved words—“LIVE!,” “NEW!,” “DANCE!,” and a handful of “Plus.” As head of the Globe Collection and Press at the Maryland Institute College of Art, she’s been charged with maintaining thousands upon thousands of these pieces of type from the massive collection of the iconic Globe print shop.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Fisher, as the archives also include famous posters, old business records, and a Rolodex featuring Tina Turner’s phone number. “We had 16 box trucks of stuff.”
Once one of the largest printmakers in the country, Globe was revered for its music and entertainment posters that promoted state fairs, drag races, and most notably, show bills for the top acts in soul and R&B. You’ve undoubtedly seen them: Think big, bold fonts, pops of Day-Glo color, and floating headshots of James Brown, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, or B.B. King. In its peak, the press was printing at least 20 jobs a day, at more than 100 posters each.
But as the digital age took over and demand for print declined, Globe was forced to shut its doors in 2010 after more than 80 years. Fisher, a MICA senior at the time, swooped in to save the press, along with letterpress professor Mary Mashburn, fellow classmates, and second-generation Globe owner Bob Cicero, who wanted to keep the collection local and intact.
“This is history,” says Cicero, who now teaches printmaking at MICA. “It’s a good feeling, passing it on.”