Designing posters for a cause

If posters don’t strike you as something that belong in an art gallery,  then this exhibit may change your mind.

Art patrons gathered at the Megan Leslie Community Art Gallery last Friday to celebrate the reintroduction of human rights posters by NSCAD University design students.

The posters were created in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Cyberbullying, cultural diversity, disability issues, transgender rights, race relations and freedom of speech were the topics provided for the project.

The students were assigned to make a poster concerning their issue.

One of those former students is professional artist Jessica Korderas.

Korderas’ poster ”Monster” addressed cyberbullying among young people.

Jessica Koderas’ “Monster” addresses to relatively modern issue of cyber bullying among youth.
Jessica Koderas’ “Monster” addresses to relatively modern issue of cyber bullying among youth.The poster is a scene showing a young boy peering over the edge of his sheets to glimpse the ”monster” under his bed.The poster is a scene showing a young boy peering over the edge of his sheets to glimpse the ”monster” under his bed.Koderas drew a laptop with a glaring white screen beneath the bed. The bottom text reads: “kids are dealing with a new kind of monster.”

“I was bullied when I was a child and it just interests me how it has changed,” said Korderas. “I found it quite shocking.”

Korderas said the age that children begin cyberbullying—starting as early as five years old—startled her.

Korderas’ poster has the Kids Help Phone number on it. Although the piece is not affiliated with the organization, the website gave her inspiration.

The hostess of the night Megan Leslie, Halifax’s MP and NDP deputy leader opened the door of her political office to the public as a community art gallery for at least the 20th time.

She has utilized her office walls as a public gallery since she was elected in 2008.

“When I was elected I thought ‘well, we have walls, why don’t we use the walls for good?’” said Leslie.

Leslie’s cozy two-room Gottingen Street office was packed with people from all demographics at the opening of the poster gallery.

The posters varied in mediums and techniques.

Some were completely animated, while others used real photographs and textures as a base for the overall design.

Annelies W. Heerschop’s poster “94 out of 100” addressed unreported instances of sexual assault.

The artist used a photo of her own face and broke up the image like a puzzle, a missing piece where her mouth should be. In the blank space are the words “94 out of 100 sexual assaults are never reported.”

Some posters contained uplifting and inspirational messages with positive imagery. Others displayed disturbing images that addressed a darker side of humanity.

Stephanie L. Young’s poster “Bleeding us dry” revealed a gruesome animated image concerning transgender rights.   

In her poster, a naked torso stands arms open with bandages wrapped around the chest. The bandages have “$10,000” smeared across them in blood. Under the image are the words “No one’s body should put them in debt. Canada needs public funding for trans-related surgeries.”

All of the posters included text. Some had a few lines and others just a few words.

A poster by Sixue Cui focused on cultural diversity in Canada. The words “Different Cultures, Same Love” sent a powerful message when placed under 20 colourful stick-people from various backgrounds. The figures are all unique in culture and appearance, communicated to the viewer by cultural dress and symbols such as hijabs, cowboy hats, and hockey sticks.

The posters were first unveiled in May 2013 at a National Human Rights Conference in Nova Scotia. The commission and NSCAD professor May Chung originally collaborated to produce posters  that would start conversations in the  community, and give students an idea of what real-life design work is like.

“This is the type of design where you’re bringing awareness to the public, making people think and encouraging people to somehow solve a societal issue,” said Chung.

The designers were required to carefully research and ponder what they were going to say and how they were going portray these difficult issues through design.

“It’s purposeful. It’s not about whatever the design student wants to design,” said Chung. “Like when you do a painting and it’s whatever you feel like    painting.”

Chung said the project ignited a discussion among people with different backgrounds and experiences.

“A lot of students have never had a chance to even talk about these issues in this way,” said Chung.

“It allowed students from China who have a very different sense of human rights because their own government is so restrictive to speak with students who are from Canada,” said Chung.

The posters will be up for the next three months. Anyone is welcome to visit Leslie’s office to view the posters.

Chung and Leslie hope the gallery will bring awareness to human rights issues and also further the artists’ careers.

“It’s great giving all these students the exposure, but they’re freezing from the exposure because no one’s getting paid for it,” said Chung.

Only 14 of the original 45 posters are on display in Leslie’s office, but all pieces can be seen on NSCAD University’s website.

Gallery viewer Katherine Boone on opening night. (Photo: Hanna McLean)
Gallery viewer Katherine Boone on opening night. (Photo: Hanna McLean)