In an increasingly divided world, empathy can seem to be in short supply. Currently on view in Joy City, one of the largest shopping malls in Beijing, is the Tolerance Project—a traveling poster collection started by Serbo-Croatian-born, New York-based artist, activist and MFA Illustration as Visual Essay faculty member Mirko Ilić. The Tolerance Project aims to celebrate and honor compassion as the starting point of all meaningful action toward building a more equitable, inclusive and just world. Tolerance posters appear in public spaces—parks, university campuses, even buses—thus engaging with a broad cross-section of the population to spread its message of goodwill. (Select works from the project are also on view in storefront windows along Korzo, the main street of Rijeka, Croatia.)
Ilić got the idea for the Tolerance Project four years ago, when he was asked to create brand identity designs for a film festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, that took place in a theater called the House of Tolerance. To offer their thanks, the festival organizers offered him a space to exhibit his own work. Instead, in the spirit of the theater’s theme of generosity and altruism, Ilić invited an international group of artists, illustrators and designers to create tolerance-themed posters, and the project picked up speed from there.
The project comprises 175 posters, with more on the way. So far, the traveling exhibition has been seen by more than 250,000 people, on seven continents: 108 exhibitions in 34 countries worldwide, including most recently Thailand, Denmark, South Korea, Taiwan, Romania and Croatia. Wherever it travels, artists from the hosting nation are asked to illustrate the word “tolerance” in their native language; the Beijing edition features three new posters by Chinese artists.
“If only one of the posters that I have so far touches their heart, then the show has succeeded,” Ilić told Steven Heller, SVA faculty member and co-chair of MFA Design, in an interview for Design Observer. “If tolerance succeeds, I won’t need to produce more shows around the world anymore.”
Among many others, some of the posters seen in the traveling show have been designed by SVA faculty and community members Yuko Shimizu (MFA 2003 Illustration as Visual Essay), Edel Rodriguez and the late Milton Glaser.
Forty-five posters from the Tolerance Project can be seen at Joy City in Beijing through Saturday, April 10. For more information, click here.