Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hudson History Far Afield

These days, Gossips doesn't venture much farther than PetSmart to get supplies for William, but Gossips readers do. One of them is now in Denver and paid a visit to the Denver Art Museum, where an exhibition entitled Drawn to Action: Posters from the AIGA Design Archives is currently on view.


There, among the examples of how design can be a tool for change and a clarion call to action, is a poster that will be familiar to everyone who lived in Hudson through the six long years of the fight against St. Lawrence Cement.




The poster was created for the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition, an ad hoc collaboration of such not-for-profits as Scenic Hudson, The Olana Partnership, Hudson River Heritage, HADA, and Historic Hudson. While Friends of Hudson, headed up by Sam Pratt and Peter Jung, focused on issues of air quality and the health risks associated with having the world's largest coal-fired cement plant just across the border in Greenport, the HVPC took up the threats to historic resources, community character, and local economies posed by the project. 

Whodathunkit? Our recent history is represented by a poster that is one of more than 10,000 objects that make up "one of the largest and finest holdings of contemporary American communication design" from 1980 to the present. 
COPYRIGHT 2014 CAROLE OSTERINK

13 comments:

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    1. You can Google him to find out, Peter, but how he came to do this poster, I do not know. You would have to ask someone at Scenic Hudson. I represented Historic Hudson on the HVPC, and I remember seeing the poster for the first time. I don't remember, if I ever knew, how or why this particular artist came to create it.

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  2. The HVPC included many groups and was led by Scenic Hudson. Olana was separate. Olana, HVPC and Friends if Hudson were the three entities with standing in the SLC fight.

    -- Jock Spivy

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    1. Thanks for the correction, Jock. I represented Historic Hudson on the HVPC, but I was having a hard time remembering all the groups involved. I recall Warren Collins coming to the meetings, representing The Olana Partnership, but I forgot TOP's separate status.

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  3. Yes it was a three group effort and each group made a specific contribution. Without each party's efforts the plant would not have been stopped.

    -- Jock Spivy

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  4. That is a beautifully designed poster.

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  5. I wonder if there are any posters symbolizing how communities, in the course of only a few years, can go from being robust defenders of their local environments to being routinely subdued, circumvented, cheated, intimidated, rendered passive and/or apathetic.

    Sorry to be sour, but who am I alienating if no one in the present is about to lift a finger either way?

    Notice the new excavations in the South Bay and Cashaway's Creek? The dig entered federal waters today. How about that clearing of mature oaks and hickories in the South Bay buffer zone, or the city's sneakily-obtained sewer plan which is already channeling street sewers into the North Bay and next into the South Bay. What about the the city's disastrous Brownfields program which failed for a lack of public involvement (not that the public was invited). Who does one tell about the ADM-bound train cars that dump tons of grain into the South Bay ...

    Don't fool yourselves, it goes on and on. Where's Woody Pirtle when you need him?

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  6. Designers like to pay lipservice to tailoring graphics to the context, but this concept is rarely actually adhered to in practice. As I recall, the commissioning of that signage was a sop to a big donor to Scenic Hudson, who wanted to put their own vanity brand on the cement fight they joined years after it started. But some partners, including Friends of Hudson, did not support its use, because we felt the skull imagery was both trite and played into the company’s narrative that opponents were alarmists. We had taken great pains to be factual, sober, and direct in our approach to persuading the public. We deliberately tried to keep our designs clean and clear, avoiding the slick and hysterical, as a contrast with SLC’s heavyhanded and overdetermined messaging. And that’s how we succeeded in passing out thousands of the plain (white Helvetica letters on red) Stop SLC signs, while also holding events where ordinary residents could paint their own signs... We were aiming for roadside legibility, not to win design competitions (which, in my 20s, I used to judge). In my own early handpainted ones, produced by the dozens in my living room, I tried to use imagery such as apple trees and crows, and other reminders of what we were fighting for, less than clichéd scare images like the one by Pirtle. Sometimes high design is a detriment in a local context.

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    1. That's a good point, and recalls a previous spirit of self-determination that's now largely dormant in Hudson.

      To give credit where it's due, these days only Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper are minding the South Bay, and as recently as today.

      Meanwhile, we servile Hudsonians are nowhere to be found.

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  7. "We had taken great pains to be factual, sober, and direct in our approach to persuading the public"
    Yes, Sam, that was one of the things that I valued most about FOH.

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    1. The description still fits.

      Although nowadays Friends of Hudson spends most of its time fighting Lafarge, we hope to see FoH increase its presence in Hudson following the Lafarge-Holcim merger.

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  8. It may have been a "sop" to a big donor, but the Pirttle poster is powerful. It may not have been nice, but it was -- and is -- true. I remember the teacher, life-long Hudson resident, who pulled me aside not long after the infamous Hudson teacher vote (AGAINST the plant!), who said she always believed her father died of lung cancer because of the cement dust. The skull was perfect!

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  9. Does the NIMBY crowd that is so proud of their vocal minority campaign against economic infrastructure in Columbia County not drive, walk, or construct using cement. It seems to me when you do you are communicating that you are fine with other folks dealing with all the evils associated with cement production, just don't produce it in my back yard.

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