Bloomington billboards display student artists' works about resilience

Billboards around Bloomington will display images created by four Indiana University student artists that reflect themes of resilience and communicate that challenges -- such as health and environmental threats -- can be overcome.

A multi-color image of a hypodermic needle is next to the word vaccineView print quality image
"Vaccines for Victory" by Christine Wang is one of four IU student works being shown on billboards around Bloomington in September and October. Image by Christine Wang

The works are being presented in "Shaping Resilience," an outdoor exhibition and public art display presented by the Grunwald Gallery of Art through September and October. The exhibition is part of the College of Arts and Sciences' 2021 Themester.

"We wanted to be part of Themester, and artists have been doing a lot of work about resilience because of the pandemic," said Betsy Stirratt, director of the Grunwald Gallery of Art. "We thought it would be good to invite young artists who are starting their careers and talking about resilience in different ways."

Billboards are a good means for a public art display, Stirratt said, because art is taken from the traditional gallery space and becomes more accessible to people.

The selected artists and their works are:

Three children stand near a pile of rubbleView print quality image
"Rubble Risers." Image by B. Wells Douglas

Douglas is a student in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design at IU Bloomington, while the other three are recent graduates of the school. Douglas, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography, uses an archive of 35-millimeter slides to create digital spaces. "Rubble Risers" focuses on what he says are two of the most resilient things in the world: children and nature.

"Children represent the resilience of our society. Our actions now will greatly affect the world children grow up to live in," Douglas said. "Whatever that future looks like, the coming generations will adjust and find ways to live through it all. Nature, on the other hand, finds ways to grow in impossible situations. Our society has done significant damage to the natural world, but if addressed and changed nature can begin to replenish."

May started Rebloom Designed in 2017. She reworks secondhand textiles such as quilts, linens and everyday household materials into clothing that is nostalgic and gives the wearer a sense of comfort and affirmation. "Rebloom" depicts May freefalling in the clouds and addresses the difficult side of resilience.

The word rebloom is next to a woman falling from the sky wearing a white and blue dressView print quality image
"Rebloom." Image by Daisy May

"We must fall before getting back up," May said. "The garments depicted in the piece have been constructed from discarded textiles. Normally these textiles would be considered unusable because of stains and distress; but even when something is at its lowest, there is always the possibility to change and continue moving forward with creativity and intuition."

Schafer creates large-scale abstract narrative paintings of friends, family and relationships that are rooted in human connection. "You Mean the World to Me" explores the desperate need for community and the creative ways to maintain it during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as parking lot get-togethers and backyard dinner parties.

"My work stands as a physical testimony and, in some sense, an alternate history of these past 18 months displayed through a lens of playful humor and in an attentive, honest hand," Schafer said.

The words You Mean the World to Me are seen against a green and pink backgroundView print quality image
"You Mean the World to Me." Image by Annabelle Schafer

Wang is interested in design's ability to highlight social issues, branding and ideas, and her works offer discussion points about problem-solving, storytelling, social awareness and learning.

"'Vaccines for Victory' is a piece in the soft color of the sky with meteors sparkling in the background, making people feel safe and not afraid to take the vaccine," Wang said. "The syringe turns into a rocket and flies to the V in different skin colors, representing taking this one small step; every human in the world can see a huge difference in a better future."

The artists' works will be displayed on billboards at the following locations:

  • May: I-69 North, three miles north of North Walnut Street, Exit 123; through Oct. 3.
  • Schafer: North Walnut Street at the State Road 45/46 Bypass; through Oct. 3.
  • Wang: South Walnut Street, 400 feet south of Miller Drive; through Oct. 3.
  • Douglas: State Road 48 West, 300 feet west of Fifth and Adams streets; Sept. 20 through Oct. 17.

A short film will be created to capture the installation of the artists' works, which will be screened at the Grunwald Gallery at an undetermined date and available online on the Grunwald website.