“What would the world be like if women were safe?”

On a bright, clear October night, nearly 1,000 people gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the San Leandro Tech Campus (SLTC), and the inaugural lighting ceremony for Truth is Beauty, a breathtaking 55-foot female nude sculpture at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in San Leandro, CA.

Created by artist Marco Cochrane, Truth Is Beauty—a steel mesh sculpture lit up at night by 2,500 LED lights—embodies the spirit of a free, uninhibited woman in full command of her body and spirit.  At the base of the sculpture, inscribed in 10 languages, is the question: “What Would the World Be Like if Women Were Safe?”

This question from the artist was not a slick marketing tagline, but a sincere wish to make the world more welcoming for women. His inspiration came out of a childhood tragedy: When he was 7 years old, a female friend was raped, and the devastation of that event haunted him, inspiring him to create art that shows women who are strong, confident and celebrated. 

Truth is Beauty’s message of hope and reflection is one we drove home again and again, and it was heard around the world, as the story of Truth is Beauty took hold and went global. Here’s a thoughtful piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, and a link to an Associated Press story that made it all the way to Brazil, reaching millions of people.

Westlake Urban received an astonishing 200 pieces of media coverage related to related to Truth is Beauty, in TV, print, and online. The coverage was viewed by an estimated 2.75 million people, and generated more than 30,000 social shares on Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The desire to tell a true story, with authentic core values and sincere messages, will always resonate, even when at first glance—a 55-foot nude sculpture at a transit hub, really? —the story might suggest something sensational. Staying true to the client’s story and his/her intent, will generate interest in the media, and will stimulate conversations that resonate long after the lights go out on the opening event.  

The story of this sculpture and the message she brings was one of our most exciting projects of the past year, as we worked with our client Westlake Urban, which commissioned Truth is Beauty for its newly completed, first phase of the San Leandro Tech Campus, a development that is helping to lead the city’s transformation from an industrial city to a center of technology and innovation; a place where women can hope to close the gap in high-tech jobs, where they are still vastly underrepresented.

When we celebrate Truth is Beauty, we celebrate her message, and a public relations effort that brought the community into the fold. In this case, it was groups like the San Leandro Domestic Violence Task Force and San Leandro Education Foundation that added both a sober message, and whose presence at the opening added both solemnity and hope. SLED even produced a video: “We Imagine a World,” featuring Deja Solis, model for Truth is Beauty, singing “Fire Burning,” the original song she performed at the event.  The statue’s inaugural lighting was timed to coincide with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

Truth is Beauty’s poignant question invites us to imagine another world. Women could walk safely at night without need of an escort. They would fill up technology jobs as readily as men do, and rise to the top of corporations, smashing every glass ceiling in sight. Girls would grow up confident and strong and work for the same wages as their male counterparts. They wouldn’t fear that every night out on the town or at a party might end up in a rape, or that they might not be believed when they raise their voices to demand justice.

How ironic that the installation of Truth is Beauty would occur in the same year that this country saw its most divisive presidential election in history, in which a woman rose to the top of the Democratic ticket, vying against, but losing the election to our now-president, whose statements about women and alleged treatment of them remain controversial.

Truth is Beauty stands tall as a reminder that women need to be respected, to be seen, to be believed, to be heard. 

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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

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