The 100 posters of the “Viral Art Project” fan out to make a rainbow-ordered mural in the Culture House’s Avant Garden. Up close, the posters include messages like “Stay six feet apart,” “Wear a mask” and “Stay home.” Co-creator of the project Ben Ostrower says the posters were created during the pandemic to help people understand the Covid-19 moment.
“My hope is folks who see it in person [will be] taken back to a time right at the beginning of the pandemic,” Ostrower says. “I think it probably forces them to really think about what the last year and a half have been.”
Now open and running until July 25, the project was created by locals Ostrower, artist Mark Kelner and curator Zachary Paul Levine. It began in March 2020 with the idea that posters could capture the message of Covid and show the responsibility of design. A World War II poster inspired the initial idea, Ostrower says.
Between March and May 2020, the project put out a call to artists asking them to submit posters that “will raise awareness of the challenges facing all of us and promote messages about what we have to do and how we can get through this time together,” the website says. The project received about five hundred submissions from illustrators, designers, graphic artists and children. Submissions mostly came from the U.S., but some posters came from Europe, the Middle East and South America.
“There’s a really interesting diversity of voices and individual disciplines on display, which I think is kind of fun,” Ostrower says.
The three creators also designed posters for the project. One of the first posters Ostrower created was of a woman holding a bunch of toilet paper rolls that’s design implied, “Do not hoard the TP.” He then shared it on Twitter where it received a lot of attention.
According to Ostrower, the once digital visual history is a natural fit at the Culture House. Kelner and Levine also have a personal connection to the art gallery. Kelner’s art was once shown in the Avant Garden and Levine is the artistic advisor.
“There’s a kind of scrappiness to the Culture House environment, which really kind of fits the ethic of the ‘Viral Art Project,’” Ostrower says.
In the second half of 2020, the project sold prints of the posters online and profits were shared to the original poster designers and the Artist + Activists Relief Fund. The fund was created by The Soze Foundation, TaskForce and Invisible Hand.
“Viral Art Project” has grown from a general idea to an incredible archive, according to Ostrower. The creators hope the archive will eventually go to an institution like the Smithsonian or Library of Congress.
“It’s pretty incredible snapshot was what it was like in that period,” Ostrower says.
“Viral Art Project” is on display at the Culture House until July 25. For information about the mural, visit here.
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