Throughout the summer and with the Weisman Art Museum’s (WAM) interior spaces closed to the public for maintenance until fall 2021, museum-goers can quench their thirst for art (and recent history) by simply admiring the museum’s exterior façade at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Part of an initiative by advertising agency Solve and intern Art Director Mike Gaines and first-year Copywriter Maggie Williams, the wraparound mural was launched on May 17th and will continue to adorn the museum’s exterior walls until October 1st, 2021.
Titled “Just Yesterday,” the public art installation showcases famous pop-culture motifs to draw the audience’s attention to the systemic, persistent injustices from the US’ recent past and which continue to oppress communities of color to this day. The exhibit is part of the agency’s commitment to addressing diversity and inequality and was developed during the 2020 protests.
Painted in vibrant colors, the posters hide an inconvenient truth: Beneath this explosion of colors, the collection uses pop culture moments to put racial disparities into context, each poster having its own “timeline.” The way they are created seems to be reminiscent of the classic “Did You Know?” facts or, as Gaines says of the series, “the posters are meant to evoke the feeling of nostalgia, like a BuzzFeed quiz or the print version of clickbait. The images and color draw you in, which is how the real message catches you unaware — a gut punch you aren’t expecting.”
“I think for a lot of white Americans, there’s a disconnect between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the present-day racial justice movement. In some ways, since the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing Act were passed, it’s gotten harder for our society to address racism head-on because white people feel like those pieces of legislation put it to rest, that our society is somehow ‘post-racial.’ With this series, we used pop-culture touchstones to show people just how recent all of this institutional progress is. And it isn’t over yet. How can it be? This all happened just yesterday,” continues Williams.
WAM’s staff welcomed this project with open arms, seeing it as an opportunity to engage people in conversations on systemic racism, past and present. Speaking about the campaign, Katie Covey Spanier, Weisman’s director of Programs and Student Engagement, said: “Minnesota has been at the center of a national reckoning on race and policing in the wake of the murders of Philando Castille, George Floyd, and, very recently, Daunte Wright.”
“While many boast about the quality of living in our state, it must be acknowledged that Minnesota, and the Twin-Cities more specifically, has some of the greatest racial disparities — in policing, education, housing, income, and employment — in the nation. These injustices are so recent, they are quite literally, just yesterday,” she continues.
In addition to the public exhibition, a screen-printed edition of each poster is considered for the permanent collection of WAM. Just Yesterday’s powerful message will be boosted on the museum’s social channels and site, which will also offer extra content developed by commissioned writers, students, faculty, artists, and community members.
Enthusiasts can learn more about the posters and the stories they carry within by visiting the campaign’s webpage. A limited-edition of museum-quality screen-printed posters are available to be purchased exclusively through the WAM Shop with proceeds going to support programs at the museum.
Client: Weisman Art Museum
Art Director: Mike Gaines
Copywriter: Maggie Williams
CD, Designer: Sean Smith
CD, Copywriter: Brian Platt
Project Manager, Producer: Kara Brower
Account Supervisor: Micaela Krause-Anlauf
Designer: Jarin Simon
Creative: Annie Seng
Creative: Olivia Childs
Creative: Rob Atkinson
Creative: Emily Allison
Creative: Rioko Sponslier
Mural Installation: Pixelwerx
Printer: Kid Icarus