WXXI AM News

Using billboards for art rather than ads

Aug 20, 2018

A Brooklyn-based nonprofit is using billboards to display art rather than ads around the country, and they’ve added a piece in Rochester.

Travis Rix is the co-founder and executive director of SaveArtSpace, and says the idea sprung from seeing billboards go up over murals around his neighborhood in New York City.

"These billboards and other advertisement spaces are in the public space, so we believe everyone should have a voice as to what goes on these public platforms."

SaveArtSpace is a donation-based organization, and Rix says they use that money to lease the billboards for artwork nationwide.

He says any artist, at any age or skill level, can submit art with a small application fee to be a part of the project.


Nigel Maister's billboard can be found at 399 Goodman St. You might know this better as the space behind the Hungerford building, or in that grassy lot near the Village Gate.

Maister is a photographer from Rochester whose piece is now up on Goodman. He focuses on juxtaposing found or discarded photos.

"This particular work is, one image is basically a very banal, flat on portrait of a guy who’s got really long kind of '70s/'80s hair, combined with a much more interesting picture of a man in drag with gloves in the middle of taking a drag of a cigarette."

The cigarette isn’t in the billboard photo because of tobacco marketing laws.

But Maister says he wanted a piece that wasn’t subtle and could be digested from a passing car. He says he was drawn to this way to display art because it helps people discover artists they might not have known of, and nurtures different voices

"It’s an increasingly important part of expression and what communities need to cohere, as well as serving a really part of function, sort of a civic function."

For Maister, he said the overgrown lot was ideal for his work.

"I mean, I love the railway tracks and I love that part of Rochester. I think it’s visually so interesting and it harps back to the past of Rochester and it's very much, you know, a functional part of the city, so to have the work in that environment was just terrific."

His piece, drag, will be up for at least a month.