The handmade magic of “Cartonera” books: a feast for the eyes, a lift for the soul!

Memphis Cartonera: Cooperative Publishing, Art & Action
Exhibit at Rhodes College, Clough-Hanson Gallery
Opens Fri., Jan. 27, 2017 (5-7pm), through Mar. 18.
Artist-in-Residence: Nelson Gutiérrez

An extravaganza of color, lettering, images, and textures, these books want you to judge them by their covers. On a base of the plainest possible material—corrugated cardboard, repurposed from boxes and packaging—a delightful festival of creativity leaps out at the viewer.

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What’s inside those covers? Some of the stories are original. Some are classics in the public domain. Some brim with illustrations, some are for coloring. The variations are endless. But the covers are all made of recycled cardboard, with hand-painted titles and artwork. Each one’s a personal statement—a true original.

Introducing the “Cartonera” (from the Spanish word for cardboard) phenomenon! This truly grassroots movement was born in Argentina during the early 2000’s economic crisis. Cartoneras are cooperative, neighborhood-based publishing ventures. They’ve spread throughout Latin America.

Now the movement has caught on here with the founding of “Memphis Cartonera” by Rhodes College students and local nonprofits. Dr. Elizabeth Pettinaroli, a Spanish literature and language professor at Rhodes who conducted field research on cartoneras in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, has coordinated these efforts and led the mobilization of community partners.

These partners have included Centro Cultural (Cartonera comics), Cazateatro Bilingual Theater (Cartonera for adults/kids), Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl (Spanish/Nahua poetry workshop), Refugee Empowerment Program (kids afterschool program), Latino Memphis/Abriendo Puertas (high-schoolers workshop), Caritas Village (Cartonera photo books for afterschool reading program).

It’s about rethinking art and literature’s place in our lives, fostering creativity, literacy, and sustainability.

A chance to learn more, talk with participants, and enjoy viewing some of the creations so far will be at the opening of a two-month-long exhibit Fri., Jan. 27 (5-7pm) at Rhodes College’s Clough-Hanson Gallery.  Nelson Gutiérrez will be the artist-in-residence throughout the exhibit. For more about the opening and a series of other activities, including workshops and talks by artist Gutiérrez, an info session on zines, and other events, please visit

Further info: Dr. Elizabeth Pettinaroli, 901-843-3828, Sponsored by Rhodes College.


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