In 2008, Barack Obama energized a war-torn, debt-ridden nation with a simple word: Hope. It is time to apply a bit more of this linguistic curative salve.
"Hope felt elusive in 2020 and into 2021," writes artist and designer Elizabeth Meggs, "but one wall amplifies a message of hope." She is referring to a Hope Wall of posters in Richmond, Va., that was launched during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last September, "amid a surge of protests demanding systemic change relative to police brutality, racism, climate change, many inequities and elections."
So far, there have been 14 rounds of nine posters each, culminating in 175 posters for a forthcoming book.
The Hope Poster Wall project was launched on Shields Avenue in the historic Fan District by John Malinoski, Ashley Kistler and Rob Carter. The rotating exhibition is comprised of an international cast of over 150 artists and designers, including Jean-Benoit Levy, David Carson, Warren Lehrer and Joseph Michael Essex. The only requirements for designers have been size and the theme. As for the project's statement of purpose:
Through the creative responses of artists posted here, this wall is a site for exploring a multitude of ideas and perspectives addressing the overarching theme of hope. This public "canvas" will change every few weeks or so as new posters are added on top of existing ones. Participants include an international array of designers and artists, along with a strong Richmond contingent. Young designers are represented, as well as long-established figures in the field. We will produce a book documenting the entire project. Wheat-pasting posters in the public realm has historically been an effective grassroots form of visual communication within the urban landscape, particularly during turbulent periods. Given the passionate protests and demands for systemic change that are currently transforming Richmond, and the tragic consequences of the pandemic, this DIY medium once again seems especially appropriate for our times. We view this project as a way to spark longer conversations about the many critical issues that confront us, helping to bolster understanding and confidence in the future. We hope the visual messages assembled here will have a galvanizing effect as we pursue the ultimate goal of equity and inclusion for all community members.
"Despite the many dark days of the past year," adds Meggs (whose poster is above), "I feel a sense of hope for the future, especially because of the power of creative thinking and problem-solving. Each of us holds the power within to create hope for ourselves and others, in small and large ways, in spite of obstacles, except in the most heinous scenarios. Most of the time, there is a way for something negative to be turned into something positive, and therein lies hope."
Signed copies of Meggs' poster are available through July 22 at "Art To Ware," a socially, ethically and environmentally conscious pop-up project located at 21 Greenwich Ave. in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, Wednesday through Sunday, from 1–7 p.m. For more information, contact Art To Ware via Instagram direct message at @arttoware, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Hope Poster Wall is on Instagram @hopewallrva.