Arts + Design

What does hope look like to you? See how these artists have depicted it

May 22, 2020 /

There are so many big questions swirling around our brains these days. Like: How much worse will this pandemic get? When will we return to normal, even if it’s a new normal? And in the face of this existential uncertainty, what on earth can we turn to?

“Today, more than anything, life needs hope,” says TED Fellow Yana Buhrer Tavanier. That word is the driving force behind a diverse and colorful art campaign called Spring of Hope. Tavanier is the Bulgaria-based cofounder and executive director of Fine Acts, a so-called “playground for social change” and a global nonprofit that uses art to empower activism.

After the pandemic struck, the team at Fine Acts contacted 50 artists from 20 countries and asked them to create images that embodied the theme of hope; later, it held an open call and collected work from additional illustrators. “Art has immense power, so we wanted to unleash it and help people during these difficult times,” says Tavanier.

Although hope is a universally understood feeling, it’s fun to see the quirky, individual ways that the artists have chosen to picture it. To one illustrator, hope is a porcupine hugging a cactus. To another, hope is a woman using bombs as flower vases, or a dinosaur holding a handbag and the words “It will pass”.

Another important part of Fine Acts’s mission is to empower people in the nonprofit community. In a few weeks’ time, it will publish all of these works on an online platform, along with hundreds of others they’ve curated in the past on topics like women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, democracy and freedom of expression. Every image will be available for anyone to freely download and use for noncommercial purposes under a Creative Commons license. Work files will also be included, so people and groups can adapt and repurpose the art to meet their needs.

Below are a handful of highlights from the campaign. Let it serve as a teeny break from the chaos we’re living in, even if just for a moment. “There is so much we can’t see that hope is our guide forward,” says Tavanier.

New illustrations will be added until the end of the month (check out their Instagram), but the gallery will be live online indefinitely.

Artist Shadowchaser/Daniela Yankova

What inspired this artwork? As a society, as a community, we’re like these 5 fingers. We’re so much alike but at the same time very different. In order to make some action, a hand needs all its fingers, and each one has a particular and important part — the same is true of humanity.

What is giving you hope right now? I hope that in these dark days, each of us has realized we can’t survive on our own because our world doesn’t work that way, that we’ve learned the meaning of gratefulness and of asking and giving help, and that we’ll start communicating and working on the real issues together as one.

What is one thing that you are looking forward to? To be able to travel freely and have real physical contact with others.

Artist Dessy Baeva 

What inspired this artwork? There is so much going on right now, and the part that most of us are finding extremely difficult is the lack of connection. How do we stay together while we are apart? That’s the main purpose of my illustration: I’m sticking with you, no matter what and no matter where you are.

What is giving you hope right now? The belief that humans are ultimately good and that there is a collective need for oneness and love for one another.

What is one thing that you’re looking forward to? To being somewhere in a field with my favorite people and listening to live music again. That’s when I feel alive and happy, and I really miss it.

Artist Denitsa Boyadzhieva 

What inspired this artwork? I looked for a quote on the theme of hope, and I was impressed by the simplicity of Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets. I was amused by the words she chose to describe its appearance — “the thing with feathers”. One could associate that phrase with a bird, but not necessarily, so I drew a bird-like human. I wanted to make others smile, but I also wanted to make a bridge between the past and today and to remind us that hope “never stops at all”. We are here because people in the past had hope, and we have the future ahead of us.

What is giving you hope right now? We humans are beautiful creatures, especially in hard times. We’re able to show unity, love and might, beyond any boundaries. I see it every day around the world.

What is one thing that you’re looking forward to? I’m looking forward to living in a world where we are one with nature again, the nature that used to inspire poets like Dickinson.

Artist Amber Vittoria 

What inspired this artwork? I was inspired by the flowers beginning to bloom in the parks where I take my daily walks and my excitement for the coming warm weather.

What is giving you hope right now? The change to warmer temperatures always gives me hope, especially now. Being able to do the simple act of opening the windows for fresh air is amazing.

What is one thing that you are looking forward to? My fiancé and I are getting married in a park this summer — with an officiant videoing in — and I’m so excited for it.

Teo Georgiev for Fine Acts_Poster 50x70

Artist Teo Georgiev 

What inspired this artwork? When I was working on my sketches, an illustration with a lighthouse resonated with me because it’s a strong and recognizable symbol of something that guides us towards safety. In the last several months, I feel like a lot of us have been metaphorically trying to navigate through stormy weather and figure out what our lives are becoming.

What is giving you hope right now? I’m afraid that whatever I say, it will come across as superficial as I’m speaking from a privileged position. But one small thing that has stood out to me is the agility, resilience and perseverance of human creativity. I’m not talking only about people in the creative industries, but about the countless ways that everyone is sharing stories, symbols, videos and images of their ways of coping and staying afloat. Creativity and art in all their shapes and forms keep us sane in difficult times.

What is one thing that you’re looking forward to? I’d love to travel back home to Bulgaria — I’m currently based in Finland — and spend some time there. Also, just simply being able to meet with people would be great.

Watch Yana Buhrer Tavanier’s TED Talk here: