Over the past twenty years, Willie Baronet, TAI’s Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising, has been traveling across the country buying and collecting signs from homeless people. To date, Professor Baronet has collected or purchased over 1,000 signs. He uses these signs in art installations and exhibits all over the United States in a project called “We Are All Homeless.”
On Tuesday, September 13, Professor Baronet will have an exhibit at Harnwell College House at the University of Pennsylvania. The exhibit is part of a greater event called the CPHI (Center for Public Health Initiatives) Seminar Series Kickoff: We Are All Homeless. As part of the event, Professor Baronet will participate in a panel along with Dr. Rosie Frasso from CPHI and several individuals who will share their experience about being homeless.
Dr. Frasso reached out to Professor Baronet in 2015 after hearing about his project on NPR. Together with several of her CPHI colleagues, Dr. Frasso and Professor Baronet “conducted a qualitative analysis of the messages on almost 300 signs,” looking at how the messages vary by city. The research will be published in the American Journal of Public Health this fall.
“This is the first time anyone has done a research project based on these signs,” Professor Baronet said. “We were humbled and honored to work with Rosemary and Allison at U. Penn to bring this to fruition, and we’re all excited that it’s being published in the American Journal of Public Health.”
The CPHI panel will also feature Eddie Dunn, whom Professor Baronet purchased a sign from in Philadelphia last summer. Mr. Dunn reached out to Professor Baronet a few months ago, stating he’d “turned his life around and is now sober and sponsoring people in AA.” He will be sharing his experience of homelessness on the panel at the event.
Willie Baronet’s “We Are All Homeless” project includes a documentary called “Signs of Humanity,” which explores the themes of home, homelessness, compassion and humanity. “Signs of Humanity,” which was filmed during a coast-to-coast road trip in 2015, has been an official selection in four major film festivals and was just selected to screen at a fifth this fall.