Beginning in the mid-1950s, SVA was in the vanguard of academic institutions in the U.S. to recognize the need for alternative marketing strategies to attract new students. SVA took to the platforms of New York City’s subway with advertising posters that were both thought-provoking and eye-catching, featuring the work of legendary artists like Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser and George Tscherny. All practicing professionals on the faculty at SVA, they used the poster commission to explore what it means to be an artist and hone their own artistic voice. Like the College itself, the SVA subway posters, which are issued three times each year, have become in some way inseparable from the city as incitements to creativity and risk taking.
Each poster of the series features a head-slash-hand holding a particular artistic implement and surrounded by an array of additional creative tools, a way of communicating the wide range of courses that SVA offers as well as celebrating the infinite means of expression that are available to creative types today. “It’s important for these posters to communicate a multiplicity of choices,” Koen says. “The hand is a natural extension of the mind, and [the act of] making is wired directly to the brain.”
With their draftsman’s marks and notebook-paper backgrounds, the posters are suggestive of a creative process that is “messy and expressive, but above all productive in images, design or motion,” Koen says. “[It’s] the type of art-making that needs protective eye goggles.”
Make Art @ SVA posters will appear on 400 New York City subway platforms through May 31, and a poster from the series has been added to Underground Images, the traveling exhibition of SVA subway posters, which just opened at the New Museum of Modern Art in Saint Petersburg, Russia.