Youngstown Social Cause Poster Project
The Youngstown Social Cause Poster Project is a gestalt-inspired program that aligns several art programs and organizations into creating a massive social cause advertising campaign inspired by and distributed throughout Youngstown, Ohio while providing opportunities to over 60+ young emerging artists, art educators, and graphic designers.
Utilizing art and design to spotlight social cause issue that affect Youngstown has an established history within the following organizations: Youngstown State University’s (YSU) Graphic + Interactive Design program (Michelle Nelson and RJ Thompson), YSU Art Education program (Dr. Lillian Lewis), Mahoning County Career and Technical Center Creative Arts & Design program (Melissa Hackett), and The Legal Creative, which would represent this project as the fiscal agent. Each organization is represented by a leader in the Youngstown arts and education communities and offers programming that utilizes smart, engaging content that inspires and empowers artists of all ages to express themselves through art and design in meaningful, memorable, and transformative ways.
Intended to begin in Fall 2017, YSU Graphic Design and Art Education students will initiate the “Social Cause Poster Project by co-selecting social issues that occur within the City of Youngstown. Youngstown itself experiences many of the social issues that the Puffin mission statement seeks to expose: including race and culture discrimination, poverty, food insecurity, bullying, violence in schools, and more. Simultaneously, the YSU art education students will be observing the creative process, studio experiences, and critiques of the project in order to draft and implement their own social cause curriculum in Hackett’s MCCTC design courses and in any student teaching experiences available at other local high schools, as required by the Art Education program. Once implemented, YSU Art Education students will provide research and conceptual mentorship to the MCCTC students while YSU graphic designers will provide creative and technical direction. The results of this project will be produced in several print and digital formats (posters, books, websites, animations) and distributed throughout the City of Youngstown. By offering multiple formats, more meaningful and repeatable entry-points will be able to effectively educate the public on the social issues affecting their community. With proper financial support, collaboration, and motivation, the young emerging artists and designers of Youngstown can engage, inspire, and transform their community with their unique, artistic voices and visions.
For the past 20 years, Nelson has been assigning her graphic design students the “Social Cause Poster Project,” which tasks emerging graphic designers with identifying, researching, conceptualizing, and illustrating an apt visual metaphor calling attention to a specific social issue. To compliment this long standing project, Thompson also assigns his students social cause design work but instead requires his students to design a data-driven infographic that analyzes a chosen social cause and then create an additional series of 3 advertisements. In later classes, his students will animate their social cause design work and release it online. Lewis’ approach to art education comes from a social justice perspective. She is a board member of the Caucus of Social Theory in Art Education in the NEAEA.
Nelson, Thompson, Lewis, and Hackett will create a cross-pollinating curriculum that details collaborations across their individual courses:
In Intro to Graphic Design (Nelson), 15-20 YSU graphic design students will design a series of 3 printed posters focusing on a social issue found within the City of Youngstown. Their work must communicate the issue and offer a resolution or action.
In Intro to Interactive Design (Thompson), 15-20 YSU graphic design students will convert the printed posters into a 1-2 minute long animation. These animations will be presented online and at participating locations in the City of Youngstown.
In Professional Practices in Secondary School (Lewis), 10-15 art education students will
create an active and engaging curriculum based on the social cause poster project intended for
practice in high schools throughout Mahoning County. Each art education student will have the opportunity to experience their social cause curriculum within their student teaching experience as well as the opportunity to implement it at MCCTC with their Second Year Graphic Design students.
In Second Year Graphic Design (Hackett), 20-30 emerging art and design students will follow the social cause poster project curriculum designed by the YSU art education students. Art education students and project managers will provide conceptual, aesthetic, and technical mentorship to the MCCTC students.
All work will be printed in a vertical tabloid format and distributed throughout Youngstown schools, libraries, and more. Large poster designs will be juried by the project managers. All work will be saved in digital formats and featured in online exhibitions. A portfolio book collecting all of the print and interactive designs and additional content will be produced.
The City of Youngstown’s “City of You” communications platform will record audio and video media (and distribute online) with every student to discuss their concept, design, execution and engage in positive and constructive discussions about the social issues identified within the body of work.
The Legal Creative will hold a lecture on “The Arts, the Law, and the Freedom of Speech” open to the community at McDonough Museum of Art during the Gertrude Stein exhibition in Fall 2017. Student designs will be distributed to attendees.
This project seeks to be a repeatable program within this group with the possibility to modify to include new partners. The project team will author a paper summarizing the collective experience of this project and share it amongst peers in the art and education communities.
Funding is critical to the success of this program as the need to deploy the finished works in printed form throughout the community contextualizes the purpose of the work, provides for authentic exhibiting experience for young artists, demonstrates the role and successes artistic-driven activism can have on a community, and ultimately supports the mission of each institution. Both YSU and MCCTC do not offer discretionary funding to initiate a project on this scale.