Responses by Erin Colasacco, senior art director, On Being
Background: We know poetry to be a critical pillar of public life. It rises up when official language fails us. And it gives voice to what is human, what is true, how we connect and what questions we hold. When we started to see high engagement with the current poetry offering on the On Being Project platforms, we sought out to discover how to provide a deeper experience of poetry for our community.
Reasoning: Poetry has moved to the heart of what we offer on our radio show, On Being and our latest podcast, Poetry Unbound. We wanted to expand on what poetry could be in a visual form, so we decided to create three-minute animated videos using audio from our recorded poetry library paired with the talents of illustrators, animators and directors like Jocie Juritz, Elyse Kelly, Ana Perez Lopez and Katy Wang. The result is “Poetry Films,” a collection of rich, beautiful short films that bring new depth to already amazing poems. Pádraig Ó Tuama’s “How to
Belong Be Alone,” illustrated by visual artist Leo G. Franchi, is the first of the series.
Challenges: Poetry permissions are never an easy thing to secure! Luckily, all of our poets have been very excited to take part in the project and supportive of the creative process. The most challenging aspect of the project was maintaining artistic cohesion across the treatments so they would sit well together in a package, while still allowing space for each individual artist or team to express their vision.
Favorite details: The way that each individual artist’s aesthetic and vision shines through in the final product and adds a layer of depth and complexity to the poem. Our goal was to create a space where the creativity between artist and poet could converge, and we are proud that the process was joyful and collaborative.
Visual influences: As an art department, we were selective in the early process when choosing artists to commission, mixing and matching styles on a moodboard to create a strong sense of curation. Based on each artist’s previous work, we were able to get a solid sense of how the final set would come together, while still leaving room for play and experimentation.
Alternative approach: The project was spaced out over the greater part of a year due to artist availability because we were willing to wait for those interested in collaborating with us. If we did this again, we would start much earlier and set a timeline that keeps everyone delivering work around the same time frame.