While out and about in Providence R.I. i captured these two creative billboards in the Jewelry District. With all the changes going on in the city's landscape this was a wonderful way to get people thinking.
Artists pencil in a little creativity on Providence billboards
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
By Paul Grimaldi
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — As politicians, city institutions and developers draft plans for remaking the Jewelry District into a gleaming research center, two artists took pencil to paper, in a way, to get Rhode Islanders thinking about the future of Providence’s cityscape.
The demolition of the roadway section that once carried Route 195 over the Providence River and through downtown made land available for redevelopment and opened vistas that disappeared when the original highway rose up in the middle of the old manufacturing district.
“I’m excited to see how the neighborhood transforms now that it has been released from the clench of the highway,” wrote Calvin Waterman, in an e-mail to the Journal.
Waterman and fellow RISD graduate Max Ackerman saw the chance for thoughtful public art.
“We were looking to create an experience for the pedestrian,” Waterman said in a conference call from New York City where he works for global ad agency Wolff Olins.
What the two friends, both graphic designers, came up with is an idea to place the image of a sharpened pencil, split in two, on a pair of billboards attached to separate Jewelry District buildings.
Once, thousands of drivers whizzed past the billboards daily –– one on Friendship Street, the other near the intersection of Claverick and Clifford streets, which offered fleeting glimpses of ads for liquor, insurance and such.
“They don’t get the same sort of traffic that they used to,” Ackerman said of the billboards.
The billboards belong to outdoor advertising giant Lamar Advertising. As it so happens, the two designers are friends with Hayden Reilly, a fellow RISD graduate who is the great-great granddaughter of the Lamar company founder and the daughter of the current Lamar chief executive.
That connection helped Ackerman and Waterman get permission to use the billboards for several weeks –– material and time the company donated. The billboards were printed on vinyl using a large-format inkjet printer.
“As far as I know, this is the first time we’ve done something like this,” said Allie Leung, a Lamar marketing manager.
After some long-distance give-and-take between the two designers — Waterman lives in New York, Ackerman in Providence — they came up with the idea for placing images of pencil parts on gridded backgrounds with no type other than the ubiquitous “2 HB” on the eraser end of one.
It’s an everyday object they expect passersby will easily recognize and get them thinking about how the city’s landscape is being erased and redrawn.
People seem to get it, Ackerman said.
“I’ve even just stood in the area and watched people,” he said. “They definitely sort of pause. Some of them stop and back up a few steps to acknowledge this combined image.”