Shepard Fairey has been one of the world’s most admired, and outspoken, artists of the past thirty years.
To celebrate his career, Fairey has been traveling to major cities around the world with a tour called Facing the Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent.
The tour, which will travel through New York, Providence, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Paris, Grenoble, Seoul and London, will showcase many of his finest works.
Fairey took the tour to Providence last month to commemorate the start of his career and to paint his 1ooth mural.
Where It All Began
Shepard Fairey moved to Providence in 1988 to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). At 2:30 one morning, in the fall of 1990, Fairey climbed up a billboard on the corner of North Main and Steeple Streets, and graffitied over a campaign billboard to reelect former mayor, Buddy Cianci, who had been forced to resign after pleading “no contest” to an assault on a man Cianci claimed was dating his estranged wife.
Cinch won the 1991 election, but ultimately spent four years in prison after he was indicted in 2001 on federal criminal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, witness tampering and mail fraud.
Fairey was a 20-year-old student in 1990, and it was more mischief than politics that motivated him to alter the sign. He said at the time he thought, “This billboard is dumb and needs to be made fun of.”
He replaced Cianci’s face with an Andre the Giant sticker, added a sign that read, “Join the Posse” and changed the slogan Cianci never stopped caring about Providence to read Andre never stopped caring about Providence.
The billboard got a lot of attention and so did Shepard Fairey. Cianci’s daughter knew a skateboarding friend of Fairey’s and he was summoned to Cianci’s home soon after the graffiti was discovered.
In a recent interview in the Providence Journal, Fairey said that Cianci issued a press release, saying that he wasn’t going to punish Fairey, but would see that he used his talents to teach screen printing to underprivileged youth…something that Cianci never followed up on.
Shepard Fairey went on to earn his his BFA in Illustration, open the Alternate Graphics print shop in Providence and become a world renown artist, whose work is included in the collections of The Smithsonian, MoMA, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and other major venues around the world.
He also worked closely with AS220, a group in Providence that offers affordable artists’ studios and youth outreach to the community. Fairey’s 100th mural is an homage to Anjel Newmann, a young woman who took hip-hop dance classes at AS220 as a kid and went on to become the youth director for the organization.
Shepard Fairey Prints at VFA
At the time Shepard Fairey was plastering Andre the Giant stickers around Providence, he also worked as a teaching assistant in screen printing classes at RISD. His passion for his art, as well as his empathy, has led to his becoming a master printmaker, whose meticulous work has a universal appeal.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the prints by Shepard Fairey available at VFA.
Kerri Tallman. Shepard Fairey to Paint 100th Mural in Providence. The Rhode Island Monthly. October 3, 2019.
Madeline List. Providence welcomes back renowned street artist Shepard Fairey. Providence Journal. October 21, 2019.
SAL. Interviews: Shepard Fairey. arrestedmotion. October 2, 2019.
Shepard Fairey Brings His 30th Anniversary Show to Beyond The Streets New York. June 6, 2019.