When the lead designer of the Sweetlife Festival saw Halsey Berryman’s work on display at the Corcoran Art Gallery, she immediately wanted to recruit the artist to the event’s design team.
Weeks later, Berryman, a senior at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, has painted 21 signs by hand for each of the local vendors at the festival, developing individual fonts and styles to fit each brand.
Anne Richardson, the Sweetlife Festival designer, said Berryman’s work first caught her eye because of its technical prowess and the use of attention-grabbings colors and fonts.
A graduate student at the Corcoran College of Art + Design herself, Richardson was looking for someone to capture the look of each vendor’s brand. She said she jumped at the opportunity to reach out to someone who lived in the area.
“It’s one thing to be an artist and another to work with big organizations and create a design for the general public. You don’t get that if you make work that’s in a gallery,” Richardson said.
The Corcoran displayed Berryman’s work in an annual presentation called NEXT. Seniors like Berryman in the Corcoran College of Art + Design present their theses in the exhibit, which draws local media attention and interest from employers looking for up-and-coming artists.
Berryman, a fine arts major, said she made her project with marketability in mind. She said she thought the handmade colorful signs depicting common lies in the form of advertisements would be easy for an employer to recognize as a marketable skill.
Though her thesis alludes to deception in the marketing world, Berryman said she doesn’t believe that making art for commercial purpose is “selling out” – just a realistic way to make a living as an artist.
“The dream is to get all of your money doing art and not have to take a side job that has nothing to do with what you’re working toward,” Berryman said.
When Berryman graduates next week, she hopes the opportunity will help pave the way for her future career.
The festival signs weren’t far off from her work as an artist for Trader Joe’s, where she helps create chalkboard murals and signs that change weekly.
The job has been reliable enough to serve as her main source of income as an undergraduate student, she said, and has made her optimistic about opportunities for emerging artists as more businesses look to personalize their brands.
Locke Eldridge, the manager of the Trader Joe’s in the West End, said artwork that includes landmarks and characters in the community adds to the store’s signature neighborhood feel.
“Without the artists, it wouldn’t be a complete Trader Joe’s,” Eldridge said.