Local artist Stuart Sheldon has always produced art that pushed the envelope, even if that meant partying in a dilapidated gold house.
But after the 2016 election, Stuart’s work became much more political. He joined For Freedoms, an artist-run political action committee, during Art Basel in 2016. Stuart says, “the pain of America’s troubles became unbearable for me.”
You’ve probably already seen his latest project, even if you didn’t realize it.
Back in September, he purchased billboard space on I-95. He marked it with the message: “How Was School Today?” with a gun target and a drop of blood in the question mark.
The message is meant to be a wake up call about gun violence and the need for stronger gun reform. And that’s not just because of this year’s Parkland shooting, but also because of the Sandy Hook school shooting and everything that’s happened since then.
We talked to him about his billboards, his message, and how the project came together:
THE INSPIRATION: Stuart says it goes back to thinking of his two young sons after Sandy Hook in 2012. He thought that the tragic event would lead to more gun reforms but, “Not only did the needle not move, it moved in the wrong direction,” he says. Now he wants his work to spark conversation that could lead to solutions. “I want this to actually help solve the problem and not just be some ego-driven art installation,” he says.
HOW THE PARTNERSHIP CAME TOGETHER: The billboard project is a continuation of a partnership Stuart struck with For Freedoms back in 2016. The organization has been running billboards across the country to promote political discourse, and this is one of them.
SO, WHY BILLBOARDS? His hope is that the big display of the billboards (and their placement on the often traffic-jammed interstate) will spark more action than social media messaging and other mediums. “I think billboards are an interesting way to jam things down people’s throat,” Stuart says. “Maybe this can be that extra push of action… so we can get a few hundred people to get off their asses and vote.”
HOW PEOPLE CAN GET INVOLVED: Stuart purchased the billboard space for the month of September and started a Kickstarter to help fund the installation. You can find info on the campaign here. It’s still live, but the billboards are set to come down by Oct. 21, even if Stuart raises more funds.