Responses by Mauricio Alarcon, executive creative director, Conquistadors
Background: The original purpose was to help New Yorkers avoid a second wave of infections. We found that art, optimism and the celebration of humanity was the way to talk to our audience who are all diverse in race, sexual orientation, age and social backgrounds.
Reasoning: When we self-initiated the project, we had the feeling that there was something bigger than just the message “Wear a Mask.” We saw a visual similarity between the outline of the state of New York and the mask. We were in front of something that could be iconic; something symbolic that could make New Yorkers feel proud of themselves, especially in these hard times. But we also thought that this visual idea could only be perceived as iconic if we meticulously crafted it that way. We wanted to convey the important health message in an optimistic way, so we decided to start building the idea from that visual and really link the line “State of Respect” and the art.
Challenges: The first piece was the most difficult because we had the sketches, but we didn’t have the artists yet. So, I contacted Norway artist Magnus Voll Mathiassen, who I follow on Instagram. He was open and curious about the project, and he put me in contact with his agent from Hugo & Marie. A week later, we made the first poster of the campaign. This execution and having Magnus on board opened doors to other artists Monique Aimee, Xaviera Altena, Hisham Akira Bharoocha, Tom Brolga, José Ibañez, Ana Jaks, Josefina Schargorodsky, Calvin Sprague, Ni Strada, Raul Urias and Eline Van Dam.
The process of pitching the project was also challenging. After a few executions with Versus and Hugo & Marie, I started pitching the idea to organizations, museums, art galleries, art apps, mural companies and outdoor media companies in New York. I knew this was mainly for New York State, but I was open to have anyone on board to make it possible. I felt the responsibility to find the exposure this project deserved because I had some great artists behind it. Then, I contacted strategy and development consultant Chris Roan, who was key to strategizing on the project and opening doors to Governor Cuomo’s team, so we could consequently talk to the Metro Transportation Authority (MTA).
Favorite details: I am proud to see the State of Respect poster campaign out there, and I feel that we’re adding a section to New York history with beautiful craft. And beautiful things, I believe, can save lives and even revive a city. In ten years, these posters might just remind us of the monster we fought together in 2020. I am proud because I know how much effort we put into these posters, from motivating the artists to be part of the project to the process of selling the idea to the New York State and the MTA.
Anything new: For me, the project proves that if there is something in your head, even if it’s vague but it’s coming back again and again, it’s because you’re onto something. When you see it and you think of something that is bigger than yourself, then you find the motivation to make it happen.