Leave it to a Ringling College of Art and Design student to win a wildly impressive national contest that put her artwork on a giant globetrotting airplane simply because she was filling time on her spring break.
While scrolling through a cell phone, as most weary travelers do to pass the time in airports, Corinne Antonelli, a senior in Illustration, stumbled upon what would turn out to be a much more rewarding way to fill her time waiting for a flight last year.
“I was heading back home to New Jersey for spring break,” said Corinne. “I was looking online and saw an ad that United Airlines was holding a competition for artists. I had no other work at the time, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I just enter for fun and see what happens?’”
United Airlines’ Her Art Here contest is the first of its kind, created to showcase underrepresented female artists by providing them with a blank canvas like no other, a Boeing 757 airplane.
The focus on female artists stems from facts and figures reported by The National Museum of Women in the Arts that though 51 percent of today’s artists are women, only 13 percent of museum artwork is created by women. United Airlines decided that percentage simply didn’t fly, so it offered women the opportunity to put their work on a canvas that would inspire girls of all ages.
“An illustration is an experience. It’s not just viewed in a gallery,” said Corinne. “When coming up with a competition concept, I knew I wanted people to have an emotional reaction to my artwork, to see this crazy cool aircraft pull up and to be excited to get on the plane.”
Her goal was to create art that represented her region, giving viewers a glimpse into what her New Jersey/New York upbringing looked like through her eyes. “I started with a template—a long, skinny canvas,” she explained. “I knew I wanted to have a visible contrast between the two states, so I focused on showing the difference between the rural part of New Jersey, where I’m from, and the modern, sleek aspect of New York. We have a historical mill in Warren County and it was a nobrainer to include it in the design while bringing far less organic shapes into the New York drawing.”
Corinne’s approach turned out to be the right one. She was quickly chosen to compete against two other finalists from New York on United Airlines’ online public voting forum. After several weeks, Corinne’s colorful take on the Northeast won the contest. United Airlines proudly honored Corinne’s tribute to the New York skyline and the New Jersey Red Mill by adding it to a member of the fleet that uses the Newark Liberty International Airport as its hub.
“I received so much support from my Ringling family and community back home,” said Corinne. “Everyone in New Jersey recognized the mill. This is the biggest thing to happen to my small town and it was so amazing to see how it made everyone feel special and part of the design.”
Winning was one thing, but the real victory was turning Corinne’s design into a traveling canvas. In case you are not a math whiz, a Boeing 757 is more than just big. It is 3,666 times larger than a standard 18-inch x 24-inch canvas. It makes 476 cross-country trips a year, roughly 1.6 million miles. The aircraft was painted in Amarillo, Texas. It took 17 days, 10 colors, 250-plus gallons of paint, and approximately 4,100 hours to complete the job from start to finish.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with how this competition has connected me with strangers,” said Corinne. “I get messages from the pilots and flight attendants who tell me they’re honored to fly the aircraft. Even the ground crew gets excited when they see it approach—they take selfies and send them to me. What makes me most happy is that I came in as a regular college kid and was able to compete against established professional illustrators.”
Currently, Corinne is focusing on her senior thesis and juggling commissioned works and freelance work she received after being thrust into the spotlight. “My ultimate goal,” she said, “is to use illustration to change how people view everyday experiences.”
By Megan Greenberg