Making Media with The Beautiful Social

Soapbox co-founder and president Mary Tasillo being interviewed for a video created by The Beautiful Social Research Collaborative.

Over the last several months, The Soapbox has had the good fortune to work with the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative, a digital research group housed in the Department of Communication Studies at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU). B:Social, led by director Dr. Bill Wolff, helps nonprofits that are dedicated to making positive social change to develop their social media outreach. As an entirely volunteer-run organization kept in motion by working artists with day jobs, The Soapbox has been very appreciative of their kind support and expertise.

The B:Social team has access to some exciting new communications technologies, which they use to support a variety of clients in doing good works, including the West Philadelphia Tool Library (a community tool-lending resource) and Project HOME, which serves homeless men and women in Philadelphia. Through working with Bill and his students we’ve learned that, though their technology is cutting-edge, their mission is essentially the same as ours: to help people tell their stories.

And lately, the Soapbox’s story has been about movement and change. As we work to ready our new space at 4700 Kingsessing Avenue, we’ve needed help spreading the word about what we have to offer—namely, our large library of zines, chapbooks, and artists’ books; workshops, readings, and art shows; studio space; and printmaking, book-binding, and paper-making equipment. We’re thrilled for the chance this new and much larger space will give us to make deeper connections with our local community. The more people we can tell about us, the better.

To this end, a group of SJU communications students has given us concrete advice on social media best practices. They have also been creating several beautiful videos that highlight members of The Soapbox and their work. In one of these, Soapbox Board Member at Large Anna Mueser talks about the tactile pleasure of letterpress printing, and the deep satisfaction of making things by hand. Other featured artists include Soapbox members and supporters, such as letterpress and book artist Donna Globus and book artist Amanda D’Amico. We look look forward to sharing all of these videos as the unveiling of our new space approaches.

As the interviews in these videos will attest, we Soapbox folks love to share our enthusiasm for old-school printing technologies. We appreciate the time and care that goes into setting type on a letterpress machine, burning a screen for a screen printing project, or firing off a few dozen copies of a new zine on the photocopier. We believe strongly in the power of the printed word. But we’re not Luddites! We love the internet too, and its myriad ways of connecting and communicating. Meeting and working with the SJU students has been a wonderful way for us to strengthen our skills at reaching people—and telling stories—using new media.

Thank you, B:Social team, for helping us grow!