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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Deck the Park With Signs of Empathy

Today of all days is when we should all experience empathy, or at least be reminded to feel empathy. Type designer Pablo Medina and long-time collaborator Charles Hall, a creative director at Hill-Holliday, have made a structure to remind us all. Hall texted Medina the following: “Gotta create a mural in Bryant Park next Wednesday. Not sure how to pull it off … Immediately thought of you.” The text came on a Friday. Medina was on his way to give a lecture. On my bus ride, they hashed out some details of the project and shortly thereafter, he starting working on the piece below.

What was involved in realizing this concept? Charles and his team (Saige Sharp, Julia Waicberg and Guy Overfelt) came up with an idea to make an installation mural out of the word “empathy” and in some way use mirrors so that the viewers could see themselves and others in the piece. Using a single word as the primary element for a mural reminded me of the EVERYBODY installation created by Tibor Kalman and Scott Stowell in Times Square. We decided to pay homage to Tibor’s mural by titling our piece “For Everybody.”

Over the weekend, I cranked out a bunch of design solutions. On Sunday night, I presented six different iterations to the team. Initially the word “empathy” was going to be typeset in all uppercase to reference Tibor’s piece overtly, but since the word has a friendly connotation, we chose one of the treatments with a lowercase solution. They also really liked the idea of having the type be made out of the same mirrored material as the wall so viewers could see themselves in the letters. On Monday, we made design revisions and by Wednesday evening, all of the mechanical files had been released. Thanks to the lightning-fast work of the production designers, Small Bands of Misbehavior, the entire installation was constructed and finished in one very cold (26 degrees) and very snowy night. They finished at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning.

Who is the sponsor? Bank of America. They were interested in sharing a message capable of being embraced and shared by people of various faiths, ethnicities and nationalities. They were generous enough to sponsor the piece and courageous enough to approve its production. The piece is located on the southeast corner of Bryant Park, which is currently part of Bank of America’s Winter Village.

What do you want the audience to take away from the experience? We’re living in polarizing times. Watching the news and keeping up with politics is consuming and exhausting. This piece is a respite from the madness, a meditation on compassion and understanding. If it makes even one person smile and recognize the full spectrum of humanity, it has done its job. Everybody can use a little empathy.  See video here.

Credits for those directly involved with the making of the structure: Charles Hall, Group Creative Director Guy Overfelt, Associate Creative Director Saige Sharp, Copywriter Julia Waicberg, Junior Copywriter Pablo A. Medina, Artist / Designer Brian Gonsar, Executive Producer Courtenay Irving, Kai Lee, Production Designers

These people were also involved in the idea but not present at the making of the structure: Steve Pratt, Creative Director – Art Craig Johnson, Creative Director – Copy Khari Street, Creative Director – Art Cristina Visconte, Account Supervisor Anna Albani, Management Supervisor Sarah Marcellus, Senior Project Manager Dan Yurko, Integrated Production Assistant

Photography Wall photo credit: Jeremy Ramirez

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