Guest post by Rita Barnes // Photos by Hannah Estes
In the two weeks after the Pulse shootings on June 12, 2016, the members of not only AIGA Orlando, but AIGA National and countless chapters across the country, banded together to respond to the tragedy. How did they respond? By doing what designers do best, creating something beautiful to fix the ugly in the world. Locally, Tibby Sparks, cruise director and miracle worker, led volunteers from AIGA Orlando in a crazy crash course on how to throw together an event in almost no time with a budget, venue, and supplies completely reliant on the kindness of others. In just two weeks, she and this team of go-getters landed representatives from The Muslim Women’s Organization, UCF Active Minds, Orange County Supervisor of Elections, and Kids Fringe; local entertainers, The Pauses, Beemo, Beartoe, Ka Mlinalli, Circa, 3AM in Taipei, Raspberry Pie, and at the last minute The Orlando Gay Chorus jumped on board; and speakers included Terry Olson, Sadaf Saied, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, and Kaleb Quast.
The day of the event, members arrived early in the back parking lots of Spacebar and The Sandwich Bar, to set up booths while the blisteringly hot summer sun pelted their skin causing sweat to drip from every inch of their bodies. They laid the donated art on tables and hung the posters sent from designers across the country for display. All exhibited messages of love and support for Orlando. Merchandise such as t-shirts, jewelry, stickers, buttons, and more – also donated – were arranged and everything was available for sale. Every dollar spent on these items was donated directly to the OneOrlando fund.
Early in the day, people entering the event could watch as a “Love by Design” billboard was painted in live action by local artist Liz Williamson. The UCF Active Minds booth welcomed anyone present with their free hugs and invited people to make their own stress balls out of balloons and rice. A banner was laid next to them for signatures and expressions of love. Next, the Kids Fringe area was laden with Thank You cards for coloring to be delivered later to the doctors and nurses of ORMC. For any visitors interested in joining AIGA, representatives sat ready to share information and welcome new members to the group. Henna tattoos were available for a donation from a member of the Women’s Muslim Organization, and last but not least, people were invited to register to vote or update their voter’s registration information.
Live music played in the background as attendees browsed the artwork and merchandise, and mid-way through the event guests gathered in the center under tents set up to break the heat to listen to the speakers. Terry Olson asked the audience to try loving someone different than themselves, because that is how we will replace hate with love. Sadaf Saied of the Muslim Women’s Organization shared her personal story about being nervous to attend the vigil for the victims held Monday June 13, 2016 in front of the Dr. Phillip’s Center and how affected she was by the welcoming response to the organization’s presence. Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz followed with a discussion on being ‘The Other’ and asked for her fellow Americans to no longer sit in silence when witnessing unfair treatment, but to stand up and speak out. Kaleb Quast concluded the speakers with a reading of a poem about being raised by a mother preparing him for hated just because he’d been born a woman.
Over five thousand dollars was raised because on June 25, 2016 AIGA members across the country and locally, in addition to hundreds of Orlandoans, showed up to Love By Design. Most who visited walked away with a memento to take home and hang on their wall or wear so that they’ll keep that message with them always, and yet again AIGA shows the world how design and designers can affect change. Words cannot possibly express the emotion, dedication, and awe-inspiring fellowship this event inspired in response to something terrible, tragic, and painful, but to all who were present and participated, it’s a day we’ll never forget.