Maria Kyros Menniti

We had a Xerox machine, we had a printer, and we had type. I had to make do with that, because I wanted audiences to come out and see movies with these posters. I was the one making their films visible to the world…
— Maria Kyros Menniti

Maria Paul Kyros (now Menniti) is an artist and docent working at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

In the world of independent film, oftentimes there is no movie star, no big budget, no recognizable genre for a point of reference. A well-made ad is our first point of contact. A piece of effective marketing - a poster, radio spot, or newspaper blurb - can make or break an event. It is the difference between a full house or an empty auditorium.

Working for Bill Judson, curator of the Film Section, Museum of Art, in the mid-1970s, Maria made hundreds of unique, one-of-a-kind posters for the Independent Film Maker Series. In an era before personal computers, she had to use strips of tape, scissors, markers, glue and early copying machines that were finicky and labor-intensive. She interwove type, imagery, and layout, resulting in beautiful artworks in their own right.

 

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In fact, her posters were so successful that museum staff had to slash the images before posting them, to prevent them being stolen. Today, visitors can see her work framed as precious objects on the walls of the Scaife Galleries in the Carnegie Museum of Art. 

Maria’s imaginative movie posters elevated film-going into an aesthetic experience. She is a born artist, with a passion for visual abstraction and eye-popping design. Looking at her images, one gets the distinct impression that film-going at the museum, back then, must have felt mysterious, strange, sexy.

 

I conducted this interview with Maria on Friday, July 8, 2016, in the Oakland Carnegie Library Branch next to the Museum. We discuss how she made the posters from a handmade approach.

I found Maria to be generous and extremely easy to talk to. Clearly she wanted her story told, her voice to be heard. Note: The audio track begins abruptly; we had spoken a bit already before I started recording on my computer.


If you happen to see Maria on your next Museum visit, introduce yourself and say ‘hello!’