The Compassion Project

The Compassion Project is a conceptual art billboard project that uses the vernacular of Christian marketing campaigns to examine spirituality and politics in America. It is inspired by a story about the Buddha told by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn. In a past life, prior to enlightenment, the Buddha was in Hell. He was with another man, and they were being tortured by a guard whose duty was to cause suffering. The Buddha, weary of seeing his companion in pain, told the guard that he should not beat the man or cause suffering in others. The guard became angry and stuck his fork in the heart of the Buddha. The Buddha died but was simultaneously reborn into a new life on earth. Even in Hell there is compassion.

The Compassion Project, which references previous well known religious ad campaigns, honors multiple ideas of god by drawing from a Buddhist legend. The project embraces compassion as a broad spiritual principal, while remaining true to the values of Jesus as a historical, political, and spiritual figure.

10 Compassion billboards have been located in 4 U.S. cities since 2009. Initially, the billboards were declined in Birmingham, Alabama and Knoxville, TN. The project premiered in Atlanta, GA, Memphis, TN, and New Orleans, LA in 2009. After the initial display a corporate ally helped to bring the work to Birmingham, Alabama where it was on display in 2010 and 2011.

In November of 2010, the artists offered The Compassion Project Forum, a moderated discussion on art, faith, and politics. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Kelly Wacker, Associate Professor of Art from the University of Montevallo. Additional panel members included Dr. Chuck Whetsell, co-founder of the Shambala Center in Birmingham, Alabama; Dan Deffenbough, Paschal P. Vacca Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Montevallo and Professor of Religion at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska; and the Reverend Canon R. Craig Smalley of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham who featured The Compassion Project in a 2009 sermon.

The Compassion Project website features written comments and voice messages left at the 1-800 number that was displayed on every project billboard.

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