Hope Takes Form

Finding hope within ourselves and in the communicative power of form

: This is an image of the poster discussed in the article. A vertical rectangle is filled with the color grey. At the top of the rectangle, colorful forms, in red-orange, purple, a gradient from orange to yellow, green, magenta, and blue, are made from the interior or negative spaces in the letterforms of the word HOPE. The letter strokes of the word HOPE are grey, matching the background, and merge into the grey background, letting the colorful negative spaces of the words become prominent.
HOPE poster, 18" x 24,” by Elizabeth Meggs

Hope felt elusive in 2020 and into 2021, but one wall amplifies a message of hope. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and amid a surge of protests demanding systemic change relative to police brutality, racism, climate change, many inequities, and elections, the Hope Poster Wall project was launched in Richmond, Virginia, on Shields Avenue in the historic Fan District, by John Malinoski, Ashley Kistler, and Rob Carter. On this wall, a rotating exhibition of posters conveying the overall theme of hope, especially in the context of social and racial equality, resides from September 2020 through August 2021. An international cast of more than 150 artists and designers, including renowned designers such as Jean-Benoit Levy, David Carson, Warren Lehrer, and Joseph Michael Essex, created the posters. The only requirements for designers have been size and the theme of hope.

Six posters on the theme of hope are wheat — pasted to a brownish red painted cinderblock wall, with a grey sidewalk in front.
HOPE POSTER WALL, Richmond, Virginia

On September 1, 2020, when I became aware of this wonderful project through a post that I saw on social media, I immediately chimed in on the comments section, “Are you accepting submissions from artists?”

The answer to my inquiry to participate in the Hope Poster Wall was “Yes.” Elated about the positive nature of the project, I began sketching and brainstorming. How could I best make hope take form visually? What is hope’s origin? What is hope?

I understand that hope is not always possible, but it’s an idea to fight for as long as one can. I believe the main aspect of hope is imagination. To me, hope means imagining, believing, and expecting that what one envisions might be possible, even on the bleakest days when confronted with horrific injustice, circumstances beyond one’s control, and overwhelming obstacles. To me, hope means not giving up, because one can picture a different circumstance or a better possible reality.

As I got to work on my Hope poster design, I began contemplating that utilizing elemental form could allow my message to communicate with clarity, while remaining stylistically timeless by eschewing the zeitgeist’s decorative trends. I proceeded with many variations until I reached my final outcome.

Applying all formal and compositional elements in my design toward denoting and connoting the concept and ontology of hope, I considered the power of negative spaces in letterforms coexisting in a visual syntax with communicative color and composition. In my design, the negative spaces in the letterforms of the word “HOPE” are colorful and vibrant, and spatially no longer negative, expressing that something negative might always be turned positive, and therein lies hope. The colorful forms reside at the top of the poster above a grey field, communicating that hope itself rises above all that is grey or hopeless.

My poster design was wheat-pasted to the Hope Poster Wall for the second round of posters that went up at the end of September 2020. And, keeping in mind that as an individual, I can be proactive in raising the level of hope that exists in the world, I’ve produced a smaller scale edition of the poster to share.

Despite the many dark days of the past year, I feel a sense of hope for the future, especially because of the power of creative thinking and problem-solving. Each of us holds the power within to create hope for ourselves and others, in small and large ways, in spite of obstacles, except in the most heinous scenarios. Most of the time, there is a way for something negative to be turned into something positive, and therein lies hope. Imagination is essential, allowing one simple wall to become a public forum for hope.

The HOPE poster by Elizabeth Meggs will be on exhibit at the socially, ethically, and environmentally conscious pop-up project “Art To Ware,” located at 21 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, NY, from June 10–24, 2021, and available there through July 22, 2021. For more information, please contact “Art To Ware” via Instagram direct message at @arttoware, or via email at hello@thecreativecookie.com. Please visit the Hope Poster Wall on Instagram @hopewallrva.

Elizabeth Meggs is a Brooklyn-based artist, designer, and writer. BFA: Virginia Commonwealth University; MFA: Pratt Institute