Students’ sign art speaks volumes


By April Wilson, Contributor

We are bombarded with images. Some are colorful and bright, intent on getting our attention to make us buy a product or think about a topic in a particular way. Then there are more practical images like the corner stop sign.

On Sept. 20, Professor David Helm’s Art in Public Places course took normally mundane street signs and turned them into intriguing displays all around campus, culminating in a large display in front of the Criss Library.

The signs were modified with clipart-like images. The topics varied widely. Some were overtly political like the yield signs bearing the Israeli and Palestinian flags, while others were more symbolic such as the stop sign with the symbol of the heart surrounding an actual image of the human organ.

“[Art] communicates an idea or emotion,” Helm said. “The artwork itself is a conduit between the viewer and the artist.”

Junior Nicole Mixan, a studio art major, was the creator of the Israeli and Palestinian flag piece.

“I’ve always been interested in Middle Eastern Studies,” Mixan said, “and [my project] was about broadening campus awareness [about this issue].”

Mixan’s piece had an interactive smart phone QR code embedded in the piece. When you scanned the code, it brought up an informative blog entry on the conflict, authored by Mixan.

Students in the class  were required to record the reactions of the public to complete their assignments. Mixan said she didn’t receive too many responses, though a few people did stop and access her blog entry.

Helm said other students had people on campus stop and talk to them and one artist even had several people throw crude hand signs at her.

“This is part of working with the public,” Helm said.

The display generated a lot of attention for the campus and the students. Several local newspapers have articles planned and a small report on WOWT was aired the day of the show.

“The attention for their creative decisions was …empowering [for the students],” Helm said.

The class does plan on using the campus more for their art displays. Currently they are working on using text as a form of art.

“This campus is very art friendly. People understand its value. They want the discussion and for people to be curious about what [our] students are doing,” Helm said.