Wilton resident Pamela Hovland and New York City resident Jacqueline Thaw have been invited to discuss the influence and impact of visual activism during the Humanists and Freethinkers of Fairfield County (HFFC)’s meeting at the Silver Star Diner in Norwalk on Monday, Jan. 14.
Hovland is a senior critic in design at the Yale University School of Art and Thaw is an associate professor in design at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts. Both women are members of Class Action, a graphic design collective formed at Yale in 1992 that creates visual messages to advocate social change.
At the HFFC meeting, Hovland and Thaw will talk about Class Action’s Vote For Science project leading up to the 2018 midterm elections.
For the project, Class Action joined the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and its supporters to design billboards and stencils that confront the Trump administration’s efforts to “sideline science,” according to Class Action’s website.
The UCS-funded public art project involved designing and positioning pro-science billboards — with messages like “Thank God and vote for science,” “Hope for the best and vote for science,” and “Keep the faith and vote for science” — along Interstate 95, just south of New Haven. The project was extended with additional billboards in Indiana and Florida, as well as sidewalk stencils in Washington, D.C.
Hovland said she and the other four members of Class Action “initiated, conceptualized, wrote, designed and oversaw production of the billboards and stencils.”
“For this project, we were determined to create a simple but impactful design to stand out in the environment,” she said.
“We wanted people’s commutes to be interrupted for a few moments to cause them to pause and think more deeply about the enigmatic messages conveyed.”
Hovland said the goal of the project was to “remind voters of the implication of candidates who deny science.”
“We wanted them to consider what their candidates would base their decision-making power on, if not rigorous research and facts,” she said. “Suddenly, this has become a question to ask of candidates, where previously it was a given that a candidate would have a rational relationship with science.”
Since President Donald Trump took office, Hovland said, his administration has “waged a war on science” by “undermining the role of science in public policy, giving industry undue influence on decision-making processes, creating a hostile environment for federal scientists, and reducing public access to scientific information.”
“This pattern of anti-science actions threatens the health and safety of the American people, with the greatest impacts likely to fall on the nation’s most vulnerable populations,” she said.
As designers, Hovland said, the members of Class Action were “motivated by the opportunity to attract and engage viewers” and “to alert them to their civic role in supporting science.”
“We in Class Action represent a diversity of religious backgrounds, but we all share a similar view about how truth and fact are in jeopardy in the current political discourse. This is particularly frightening to us when it comes to crucial scientific information, [such as] the denial of climate change,” she said.
“Until the present administration, no one thought that ‘alternative facts’ existed. Now, simply by inserting this into the public discourse, some surely have been convinced that they do. [It’s] pure propaganda.”
In response, Hovland said, Class Action members — ”acting as citizen designers” — sought to create their own “counter-propaganda.”
The HFFC’s Jan. 14 meeting will begin with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by Hovland and Thaw’s presentation at 7. Members of the public are invited to attend. RSVP at meetup.com/HFFCCT or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Hovland.”
To learn more about Class Action and its projects, visit classactioncollective.org.