PROJECT: Drains to the James PSA poster series
CLIENT: Elli Morris stills & motion
FUNDING: Richmond CultureWorks—Richmond Arts & Cultural District micro grant program
OBJECTIVES: Promote the Richmond Arts & Cultural District (ACD); promote awareness of the James River as it runs through Richmond to ACD visitors; promote river activities and stewardship
MY ROLES: Project development; graphic design and production; copy writing and editing; on-site installation
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: Photography, Elli Morris stills & motion; Printing, Richmond Signscapes
Ever passionate about the James River—and especially the James River as it runs through Richmond—Elli Morris is a one-woman dynamo when it comes to promoting river recreation and stewardship in the minds of locals who otherwise might take it for granted. And with Richmond, Virginia gearing up to host the UCI Road World Championships in less than a month, the unprecedented opportunity for showing the James River to the world was a river promo dream come true.
Enter the Arts & Cultural District Micro Grant Program and a whole lotta community collaboration. Through a series of phone calls, texts and email messages, the team funneled Elli’s broad vision down to a single presentation concept. I assembled some rough mockups for the grant application, Elli made her case, and we all crossed our fingers.
Three days later, Elli called to say she had been awarded the grant. The project was a go!
The grant requirements added a third communications objective to the project: we needed to specifically promote the Arts & Culture District. Elli’s concept included a map to clearly demonstrate proximity, a series of her Elli Morris stills & motion photographs highlighting the myriad of activities taking place on the water just a few blocks down the hill, and a different title slogan about environmental impact on river water quality for each image. All we needed was a direct reference to the ACD and a tagline to tie it all together.
Richmond is a river city sitting on the fall line between the Shenandoah Mountain and the Atlantic ocean. As with any river city, the river and the city share a symbiotic relationship. That relationship can, at times, be as hurtful as it is helpful. Pollutants and detritus carried by rainwater runoff is one of those times. From its perch atop the bluff on the north side of the river, the ACD directly impacts the river every time it rains. That’s a pretty direct connection!
We went with Drains to the James to strengthen the cognitive link between the ACD and the river, and to carry the raindrop theme home. Plus, it’s just fun to say.
When all was said and done, we had ten 4×4 and two 2×2 foot raindrops static clinging to storefronts, along with two 4×4 foot vinyl banners flanking the main entrance to the downtown public library.
Not bad for six days’ work!
My primary contribution to the project was design and production, with a bit of copywriting help and editing thrown in. I also went around with Elli to wash windows and install posters—I was that excited to see them hanging! But there were a lot more people who helped make this happen.
Elli Morris of Elli Morris stills & motion, who did everything covered above plus riding her bike through town knocking on doors and collecting contact numbers from any and every place she hoped might host a poster. CultureWorks funded the Arts & Cultural District micro grant. The James River Association and Bike Walk RVA came on board. Richmond Signscapes printed and trimmed the signs in record time, Storefront for Community Design helped with locations. And all the people and places who welcomed the signs to their windows for the fall First Friday Art Crawl season: Bunkie Trinite Trophies, Hilton Garden Inn, Mama J’s Kitchen, Moore’s Auto Body & Paint Shop, Pediatric Dentistry, Richmond Public Library, The National, Candela Books & Gallery, Hummel Associates, Steen Wear bicycle apparel popup storefront, Richmond on Broad (University of Richmond) café, and a for-rent storefront at 208 E Broad.