By Chelsea Garner-Ferris
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” Those words still resonate.
Ringling College of Art and Design believes that creativity thrives and reaches its full potential through the consideration and incorporation of a broad perspective and experience that is only possible through dedication to diversity and inclusion. When the opportunity arose for Ringling students to contribute to a project mirroring those ideals, it was an obvious and easy “yes” for the College. The proposal came from Ken Shelin, a dedicated LGBTQ activist who previously served as a Sarasota city commissioner and vice mayor. With support from the City of Sarasota, sponsored by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, and armed with a dedicated and experienced project committee, the goal was to present the community with a work of art representing the city’s aspirations of becoming a more diverse and accepting place to live and visit. To begin fundraising efforts, the project required strong visual branding and marketing materials. The challenge at hand was this: Designing a brand for a work of art that hasn’t been created yet.
Recognizing that Sarasota and its residents have made great strides over the past several decades toward cultivating and nurturing a more diverse and equal community, Shelin and his team, known as the Diversity Public Art Project Committee, felt it was important to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go—and that the efforts to get there are of the utmost importance. Toward that goal, the committee laid out a plan to select, produce, install, and dedicate an artwork that will symbolize and embody these efforts. Once created, it will stand as a visual representation of the city’s path to inclusivity, and, hopefully, act as a conduit to spark important conversations about the listening, learning, and accepting that would be necessary to get there.
Ringling College of Art and Design seniors Kitt Kippenberger (Illustration), and Andrew Kroll (Graphic Design) were selected to work on the project’s branding and marketing materials under the experienced guidance of Ringling College’s Design Center. The first step was to come up with a project name and logo.
“At the Design Center,” says Holly Antoszewski, associate director, “we provide students with the opportunity to work on all phases of a real-world project in a multidisciplinary learning environment. As a College, we believe that diversity of thought and perspective helps to shape cultures and conversations. We were excited to be a part of what will become an important symbol of inclusion in our community and for our students to have the opportunity to be involved in the design process.”
Kippenberger and Kroll brainstormed and met periodically over Zoom with Shelin and his team. Eventually, the concept and design for One Heart: United Through Diversity was born. Kroll was responsible for the design, including typography, composition, and color palette, while Kippenberger focused on the project’s illustrations. “Both the design and illustration of One Heart is intended to look welcoming and friendly, and to highlight the many emotions and conversations we know the Diversity Public Art Project will spark for others,” notes Kippenberger. “The illustrations aim to depict the diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community we aspire to be.”
The “heart” illustration is a main focus of the project, appearing in the logo and throughout the branding, reiterating the obvious (yet often overlooked) fact that all humans share this important and vital thing in common. Also featured throughout are recurring and overlapping conversation bubbles that represent the importance of dialogue between people of all different backgrounds and beliefs.
Meanwhile, with the help of CODAWorx, an online resource to find and commission artists, the committee was busy reviewing an impressive list of over 200 local, national, and international artists. This list was eventually narrowed down to 55, with 15 artists interviewed by the committee over Zoom. Of those, six were chosen for the opportunity to present their proposals for the space. Once the final artist(s) is selected and fundraising for the project has been completed, the monumental work will be permanently installed in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park, accessible to and available for all to enjoy.
In one short semester, Kippenberger and Kroll produced an astonishing amount of professional assets for the One Heart project. In addition to a logo, they also created a beautifully designed pocket folder to hold the branded mission statement, vision, budget, and other information about ways to get involved. Business cards, letterhead, a donation card and envelope, informational postcard, and a full set of brand guidelines were also included in the package. The students even went a step further to design assets for the project’s website, a branded One Heart T-shirt, and graphics to use on social media platforms.
It wasn’t just the project’s committee who benefited from this collaboration. The students gained invaluable experience working on a professional project that required them to partner with clients, work to a deadline, and deliver on budget. But it was deeper than that, too, especially in such unprecedented times. Kroll said they enjoyed working on the project and that they found it rewarding. “We hope that we have helped inspire our community to take part in what will become an important symbol and space of equality, inclusion, and diversity for all of us to celebrate.”
The committee’s goal is to produce, install, and dedicate the public artwork by mid-summer 2022. For more information, visit the project’s website at www.sarasotaarts.org/oneheart.