On the Fence



Spring 2013  

In the Spring of 2013, the Illustration department hosted the Designmatters, On the Fence studio.  The students were given the challenge of designing and installing a large scale mural on the topic of youth unemployment.

In recent years, the overall global unemployment rate has risen to 4.5%.  A staggering statistic, but when compared to the global youth unemployment rate of 12.6% it gives cause for concern about the future, on a global scale.  In 2011, a youth’s risk of being unemployed was 3x higher than that of an adult.  It is a given that the majority of young people are already at a disadvantage in the highly competitive job market having had less on the job training and developed fewer marketable skills.  During the economic crisis, youth employees are not only the “last in” but also the “first out”, since it is more costly for employees to lay off older workers.  Prolonged unemployment increases the risk of future unemployment with more than 6 million of the world’s youth giving up on finding a job in with the downturn of the global economy.


For some students, the challenge to produce a piece so large was intimidating. When the 17″ drawn sketch became a 60′ wide painting, the demands of the piece became extremely different. It posed different challenges. Context, light, texture, interaction with space all came into play. At that point it was less about drawing and more about building.

– Brian Rea, Faculty, Illustration Department


About the Project

“On the Fence” was strictly a mural/installation studio for illustrators and designers interested in large scale work. This fully collaborative course emphasized large scale techniques, process, art direction and context. Throughout the term, several  assignments were given, covering a range of topics such as; news, current events, ideas, and awareness issues in which students were given the challenge of creating art that was specific to each design brief.  The studio culminated in a large scale mural installed in Art Center’s Sinclair Pavilion. Students worked together to meld their ideas and individual artistic aesthetics to create a cohesive, singular, large scale piece on the topic of youth unemployment.

The studio was lead by Illustration faculty member Brian Rea, who is the former art director for the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. He has produced drawings and designs for books, murals, fashion, posters, music videos, and magazines around the world. His work has appeared in Playboy, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal and Time among others and his design clients include Marni, Herman Miller, Kate Spade, Honda, Billabong, Random House and MTV. Brian’s drawings and paintings have been exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Mexico City and Barcelona, Spain as part of the group show “Murals” at the Fundació Joan Miró.