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SCAD graduate students use art to express views on nuclear energy

The images range from frightening to humorous.

The posters were created by graduate students in graphic design as part of a project at the Savannah College of Art and Design. They can be seen through Aug. 28 at SCAD's May Poetter Gallery.

Not all of the posters are anti-nuke. Prateeksha Khatri portrayed nuclear energy as an alternative to using petroleum products that cause pollution.

“It was neat to see what the issues are from an artistic perception,” says Sara Barczak, Safe Energy Director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, who spoke to the class. “And it was interesting to see what the perceptions are from their age group.

“One student said nuclear power was good at the beginning of the project, then kind of realized he didn’t know about all the layers of it,” Barczak says. “It’s interesting to see how people who started with no set ideas came up with their own conclusions and put them down in an artistic way. I don’t think everyone will like the posters, but if they know what the project is about, they will appreciate them.”

The project was created by Scott Boylston, a SCAD professor of graphic design, who says the whole point of the project was to start a conversation with the public.

“I thought this would be a good project, with the energy crisis, greenhouse gases, and the fact that the nuclear industry is on the brink of taking advantage of the greenhouse gas issue,” Boylston says. “I think what it is really about is asking people to slow down in the decision-making process.”

The students spent a lot of time doing research and discussing what they learned. “Nuclear power is cleaner, true, but you must look at the entire life cycle — the extraction process, how much nuclear waste is created, the enrichment process,” Boylston says. “Especially in Georgia, you can look at just how much water is needed to cool off this energy source. The whole idea is that there’s all of this discussion about the problems moving forward with renewable energies.”

Boylston says the project is not taking a stand against nuclear energy. “I don’t think it should be framed as a no-nukes movement as much as a sensible energy discussion,” he says.

Six students in the class were asked to develop two posters each. Boylston notes the class was international, with two students from India, one from Brazil, one from Thailand and two from the United States.

“We spent about five weeks developing them,” he says. “The first few weeks consisted of solid research.

“Each individual would bring what they learned back to the classroom, and it would be the discussion for the day,” Boylston says. “Once all the facts were in and the research was done, there was a discussion about what were the real issues from their point of view.”

The next step was finding symbols that would be used to best communicate those ideas. That is the fine art of graphic design, Boylston says.

“It’s the extreme distillation of ideas without reducing the meanings behind it,” he says. “It sounds like a contradiction, but it can be done.”

Boylston is pleased with the final posters. “I think the results were strong,” he says.

In previous project classes, Boylston’s students have covered topics such as lead poisoning awareness, freedom of speech and peaceful assembly and sustainable living issues.

“As a graphic designer I always look forward to work on a project that will give me an opportunity to experience something new, or to see myself facing a challenge,” says Cristine Moonan, a student in the class. “The challenge turns out to be not only designing and finding a concept, but making people see through one small piece what, through deep research, you found to be a complex and serious issue.”

Nuclear Power Posters

The posters were created by Savannah College of Art and Design graduate students in graphic design. The theme of the project was whether nuclear power should be used to deal with global warming.

When: Through Aug. 28. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: SCAD's May Poetter Gallery, 342 Bull St.

Info: www.scad.edu/exhibitions/savannah.

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Linda Sickler

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