Behind the May/June Cover: Shepard Fairey’s “R.I. Angel of Hope and Strength”

Pick up the keepsake issue on newsstands June 8, which includes a full-sized poster of the Fairey print.

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The latest issue of Rhode Island Monthly was supposed to have a Band Aid box on its cover — a very cute illustrated one, we might add (keep an eye out for it inside the magazine). But a Band Aid is no match for a pandemic.

So, late in the production schedule, our art and editorial team began brainstorming new ideas for the cover of our combined May/June issue, which lauds the Ocean State’s top doctors. We needed more than a quick fix for the cover; we needed a tonic to heal us from the inside out, while also celebrating our hard-working medical professionals. Turns out, Governor Gina Raimondo was thinking the same thing.

In late April, the governor announced a collaboration with RISD graduate and acclaimed artist, Shepard Fairey, on “R.I. Angel of Hope and Strength,” a work inspired by Rhode Island’s “can do, roll-up-our-sleeves spirit,” Raimondo said, with nods to health care workers and the state’s motto, “Hope.”

Rhode Island Monthly‘s creative director, Doreen Chisnell, immediately thought the Fairey print would make for an impactful cover image.

“The message was clear: HOPE and how our state should celebrate our health care workers, who are all angels that are being so strong during this pandemic,” says Chisnell. “So, I pursued the permissions I needed to reproduce it and the artist was happy to work with us.”

Chisnell says the Fairey poster reminds her of the Russian Constructivist style in art and poster design, which used art as an agent for social change. She’s also a proponent of bold typography, and the “R.I. Angel of Hope and Strength” design highlights type in a very strong way.

Also included in every issue is a full-sized pull-out poster of the Shepard Fairey print, which was underwritten by National Grid. According to Rhode Island Monthly publisher John Palumbo, “We thank National Grid for providing funding to cover our costs days before we shipped this to press. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but we have continued to chronicle life in Rhode Island, both in good times and in bad, and will do the same for years to come.”

Says Terry Sobolewski, president of National Grid Rhode Island, “The last few months have been extremely challenging for everyone, especially our front line workers and health care professionals. The physical and mental toll they face is incomparable, and their courage and resiliency to continue helping their patients and neighbors during these difficult times is deeply inspiring. We wanted to find a simple way to honor their commitment and bravery. And we want to encourage other Rhode Islanders to salute the many people helping us all overcome the pandemic. These heroes are keeping us safe, while giving us hope and confidence that we will get through this together.”


Pick up a copy of the May/June issue, with the keepsake poster inside, on newsstands June 8.