Presenting Art for the Baldwin100

Presenting Art for the Baldwin100

The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center requested art work to be used  for promoting a year-long celebration of international writer James Baldwin. The BALDWIN100 will be a year-long series of public events, including panel discussions, book clubs, lectures, and film screenings, that collaborate with the Virginia-Washington-Maryland community to engage with and celebrate James Baldwin’s work. 

Spanning 2024- 2025, this program will celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Baldwin’s birth in 1924 and will use art, literature, and scholarship to bring our community together.

About Rick, the graphic designer and artist:

Fresh from design school, Rick - Richard L. Heffner - began his career at one of D.C.’s premier design firms, Supon Design Group. He then moved on to be one of the initial members of the design team for Discovery Communications as Senior Design Manager, where he designed and art directed collateral for Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet. Thirsting for an opportunity to apply his skills to a broader array of clients, in 1996, at the age of 25, he started his own design studio, Fuszion. Building from his entertainment background, the studio was soon a national player and would quickly find its way into the advocacy, conservation, museum, and institutional arenas.

Rick earned his MFA in Graphic Design from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MA from the University of Baltimore, BFA from Shepherd University, an AA from Frederick Community College . He served on the board of directors for the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington, and holds memberships with the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Publication Designers (SPD), and the University and College Designers Association (UCDA).

When Rick is not in the classroom, he and his firm, Fuszion, provide creative services and design consultation for clients that include the Smithsonian, National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Ocean Conservancy, American Rivers, International Fund for Animal Welfare, National Parks Conservation Association, Galapagos Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, The President’s Committee on the Arts & The Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), PBS, Georgetown Business Improvement District, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Public Welfare Foundation, Hasbro, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, and the National Children’s Museum.

Rick is an assistant professor of graphic design at George Mason University School of Art.

About the art work:

We are excited to share our Baldwin100 art work which we thank our graphic design partner Richard L. Heffner for. Rick's design conveys gravitas, and the monumental presence of James Baldwin. Baldwin’s hope and vulnerability comes through beautifully and the architectural construction, alongside the 1960s lettering, presents a form that thrills, inspires, spanning time and place. And finally, there is a little sparkle, a heart in his eye, for Baldwin explored the central desire of all humans for love. In Ken Burns Documentary, 'The Statue of Liberty,' filmed shortly before he died, Baldwin reflects on monuments and how they do not mean the same thing to all Americans. Somehow this art brings Baldwin into a place where we feel present in the contemporary works of Simone Leigh, and Kehinde Wiley. 

To the team, this design conveys an added sense of layering to the American story, where an international icon like Baldwin welcomes us to the ideas that celebrate a lively public discourse, and a deeper humanity. Baldwin is looking out in welcome, hope and aspiration - looking out from his world of Turkey and France, and from his New York roots, out of and into America. He is his own symbol of liberty.

With thanks to the artist and Mason Exhibitions, the School of Art at GMU, and host committee members Yassmin Salem and Donald Russell.

About the Baldwin100:

The BALDWIN100 is a collaborative arts, scholarship and cultural project encompassing a year-long series of initiatives designed to convene a wider Washington area audience to engage deeply with James Baldwin’s work. By celebrating Why Baldwin Matters, the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center is in a unique position to highlight a global Baldwin, whose impact on American intellectual and cultural life holds promise for a just world. The final outcomes of the initiative are: connecting the individual to their role to progress America towards a more just society.

2024 is the centennial celebration year of James Baldwin’s birth on August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York. By marking The Year of Baldwin, our partners can re-examine and share prescient and ever relevant work of one of America’s prophets. Turning out to face the world in countries like France and Turkey, James Baldwin was able to reflect on the American experiment and racial injustice. From 1961 to 1971, Istanbul became the backdrop for Baldwin’s writing. A city situated at the cultural crossroads of East and West, it was there that he wrote such renowned works as the novel “Another Country” (1962). From abroad, he wrote about America’s structural, cultural, and physical violence against African Americans and other marginalized groups. Exiled and yet belonging to America, he legitimized a critical way of thinking about the world, sexuality, and the artist in it.  By celebrating a global Baldwin, and the intersectionality of Baldwin, we will bring curators and audiences together to remember, witness and critically examine our own purpose to create a just society.