Over the past 200 years, the East Village has established itself as a haven for free-spirited individuals to create art in all its forms, encouraging works that reflect social, political or personal messages. Since its inception, The Cooper Union, a private college, has functioned as a New York City landmark that has fostered activism, advocacy, and education for more than a century, making it the ideal place to host the groundbreaking Tolerance Project, an art exhibition that promotes social acceptance through the power of design.
Starting February 24, a collection of handcrafted posters designed by contributing artists from around the world will be displayed in the colonnaded windows of the Cooper Union Foundation building in the East Village, with all rooms sharing the message of inclusion. , diversity and of course, tolerance.
“It’s all part of an effort to spread respect and thoughtfulness in a world increasingly divided by distinctions of race, religion, sexuality and national origin,” said project creator Mirko. Ilic. “In posters that are by turns playful and profound, surprising and original, The Tolerance Project uses the unique power of design to remind us of what we all have in common and what it takes to bridge the gaps between us.”
Ilić, a renowned Bosnian artist-activist, first conceived of the initiative after being inspired by the annual “House of Tolerance” festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a similar project that uses his platform to advocate for of positive social change by reminding the public of the tragedies that took place during the Holocaust.
Since its creation in 2017, The Tolerance Project has reached more than 300,000 people in 37 different countries, winning new posters with each episode. The posters are provided by each of the region’s prominent artists, whose only requirement for the design of the prints is to feature the word “tolerance” in their native language; to date, Ilić has collected over 180 posters for the project.
Each exhibition displays the posters where they are most visible to the public: in parks, on university campuses, even on buses, seeking to engage with as many people as possible.
“I worked with him [Ilić] for more than two decades and his hand, eyes and mind have brought incalculable value to the pages that I have designed and artistically directed,” said Steven Heller, a frequent contributor to the project. “Indeed, there were times when I was so blocked by conceptual obstacles that the only savior was Ilic. Like a Sherpa guide, he brought me out of a conceptual desert… Mirko Ilic…seems to have an endless supply of images/ideas that unblock and comment on import issues.
Ilić started the project with the aim of inspiring positive change among individuals around the world, however, of the 129 shows The Tolerance Project has held over the past 4 years, there has never been a exhibition in New York – until now. With thirteen shows in Croatia, a small country of 4 million people, and only eleven shows in the United States, with a population of 330 million, Ilić is suffocated by these numbers, forcing himself to wonder what the Americans really think about intolerance. .
However, after witnessing the impact the posters have, as well as the precision and consideration that goes into their design, Ilić will continue to lead his campaign for the advancement of inclusivity, diversity and equality in society, worldwide.
“I really hope this is the first of many more to come,” he said of the Union Square exhibit. “The Tolerance Project starts a conversation about inclusion, which can only begin with a foundation of tolerance.”