Signs and wonders
Arts Commission calls for submissions for bold new billboard project
If two words can create exactly opposite impressions, “billboard” and “beauty” are a pair that qualify. Sure, if you’re an advertiser, a honking big sign by the side of the road will get your message across real nice, but if you care about the aesthetics of the urban environment, well, you’re probably not a big fan. With a new project, the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo is ready to change what you thought you knew about the signs you love to hate. And they want local artists to help.
“We’re excited about it,” says Dan Hernandez, the Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places Coordinator. “This seemed like a perfect fit for us.” He’s talking about the just-announced Toledo Digital Billboard Art Project, which will let artists display their work in a format that’s not only larger-than-life, but larger than pretty much anything. The space to be used will be two digital billboards in West Toledo (one at Monroe and Secor, the other at Secor and Central), owned by Toledo-Detroit Outdoor Media. The idea is that interspersed with the usual commercial messages, creators will insert eight second blasts of inspiration.
It must be a sign
Yvonne Goodwin of Toledo-Detroit approached the Arts Commission with the idea earlier this year, spurred by smilar projects in other cities. She offered the use of the company’s billboards, and, as Hernandez says, “it seemed like a perfect fit for us.” The commission enthusiastically got on board, and the call for artists went out in late July. The submission deadline is at the end of August.
Artists can submit up to three works, and winners will be selected by a committee assembled by the Arts Commission. “Typically we try to pull in different community stakeholders for the selection committee,” Hernandez says. “We’ve had city council members, engineers, arts advocates, other professionals ... we try to build a nice cross-section. It’s a great way get those folks interested in the arts and find value in them.”
Hopefully, the project will have the same effect on the community. Like the Arts Commission’s recent bike rack project in UpTown, the billboard project aims to inject beauty into a prosaic space. The commission is looking for arresting work that’s simple and expressive enough to catch the attention of people driving by. “We want to provide an aesthetically pleasing pause” among the flood of commercial messages, Hernandez says, “to add to the identity of our city as a growing center for artistic pursuits.” And, if you’re an artist, why wouldn’t you want your work displayed in lights, for an audience of thousands? All the signs are right.