#110 The I-75 Project, activism with a smile

I-75 Project

Sign from Norm Magnusson's I-75 Project, photo by the artist

Norm Magnusson obviously knows one of the secrets about changing minds: humour works better than guilt. His I-75 Project plants official-looking road signs along the interstate that starts in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and “doesn’t touch another blue state.”

I’m a sucker for historical signs so would probably stop at every one of them, figuring to learn something about local lore. Instead, I’d read things such as, “On this site stood Jane King, whose white male coworkers earn 39% more than she does for doing the same job” or the one on job-killing big box stores, like the one in the photo.

They would catch me up short and make me appreciate what Norm writes on his I-75 Web page: “These markers are just the kind of public art I really enjoy: gently assertive and non-confrontational, firmly thought-provoking and pretty to look at and just a little bit subversive.”

Norm is a very talented artist. His Funism site shows off not only his skills as an artist but also his sense of, well, fun. I wandered around the links and fell in love with Animal Allegories, A plant a day, and Animal Alphabet. There’s a serious side to his work too, as I discovered with After the 11th and America’s Seven Cardinal Virtues. I checked out Ad stuff and was impressed by all the marketing campaigns he has worked on. I left the site feeling buoyed by his art.

Next time I get hot under the collar in the middle of some political discussion, I’m going to remind myself about the I-75 Project. When I start laughing in the middle of a rant, my worthy opponent will wonder why. When I explain, we’ll both start laughing. And maybe we’ll even start listening beneath our differences to the core of what it is we really want for the world.

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