Learning the ABCs« back to Portfolio
by Christina Wheeler
For 26 days, the city of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, will bring public art and civic engagement together in an innovative way: by making a letter of the English alphabet the central focus of its newspaper’s front page. The Fitchburg Art Museum, with the support of a National Endowment for the Arts ‘Our Town’ Grant, commissioned artist Anna Schuleit Haber to develop a project encouraging community involvement in the arts.
To achieve this goal, Schuleit Haber has partnered with 26 typographers from around the world and with a group of reporters that includes local high school and college students, writers, poets and citizens to create The Alphabet project, which is, according to Schuleit Haber, “a creative ‘take-over’ of the normal scope of the news.”
During The Alphabet’s run, which began July 13 and will conclude on August 11, the front page of Fitchburg’s Sentinel & Enterprise is featuring not only the typographer’s rendering of the letter but also written pieces that focus on local culture and history, arranged to complement the letter’s design. Each of the front page’s written works, which include literary journalism, poetry and news stories, have a title that begins with the letter of the day. Through its artistic use of language and letters, The Alphabet explores the interaction between visual and editorial expression and its influence on meaning.
This interaction and influence is perhaps most obvious with the letter “G.” Typographer Cyrus Highsmith, from Providence, Rhode Island, adapted the letter to look like a frightened face, while the pieces “Got Grit?” by Fitchburg State University professor Elise Takehana, and “Granite,” by Fitchburg State senior and Alphabet intern Shannon Gugarty, accompany the letter. The former article focuses on the hardships some students face to go to (and stay in) college, while the latter talks about the type of rock that is capable of withstanding extreme changes in temperature. The letter unites the pieces together under the idea of endurance in the face of fear and struggle.
“We want to invite readers to pause and reflect, to engage, and to immerse themselves in this limited edition of art, design, and news-making on the front pages of the newspaper,” said Schuleit Haber. She has created a wide array of public art in the past, with venues ranging from psychiatric institutions and museums to forests and isolated islands.
Schuleit Haber studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and creative writing at Dartmouth. She was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard and a MacArthur Fellow for work that has “conceptual clarity, compassion, and beauty.” Her recent work revolves around seriality and memory.
The Sentinel & Enterprise editions will be on display daily over the course of the project at the Fitchburg Art Museum, 185 Elm Street, Fitchburg, MA.
Image Credit: Images courtesy of fitchburgartmuseum.org
Christina Wheeler is an intern for Art New England and a literature major with a creative writing concentration at Stockton University in Galloway, NJ.
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