Date ArticleType
9/8/2020 Member News

USF Contemporary Art Museum Launches SOS Color Code 2020 to Champion Democracy and Solidarity in Times of Crisis

(Tampa – September 3, 2020) On September 15th, the International Day of Democracy, the USF Contemporary Art Museum, part of the Institute for Research in Art in the College of The Arts, launches SOS ColorCode 2020, an exterior installation of three flags created by Chicago-based artists and designers Luftwerk and Normal. Using the universal language of Morse code and color theory, SOS Color Code 2020 transforms the international symbol of distress–S (three  dots) O (three dashes) S (three dots)– into a sign of solidarity and connectedness for humanity. SOS Color Code 2020 will remain on view at multiple locations throughout Chicago and around the US through Election Day, November 3rd, reminding us of US Representative John Lewis’ call to action: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we call the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

Accompanying the flags, the project’s free print at home poster, available as a color or do-it-yourself black & white download, includes a QR code that directs viewers to HowtoVote, a non-partisan voter registration guide.


The international distress signal SOS, adopted in 1908, provided an easily recognizable and unique code of aural unity, a sense of consistency in life or death situations. As the world faces the global challenges of the Covid-19 health pandemic, climate crisis, economic depression and disparity, and the systemic racism and violence against Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), which is exacerbated by the aforementioned, SOS Color Code 2020 offers a reimagining of how visual language, objects, symbols and color can provide a measure of stability and safety. Animating the façade of the museum, SOS Color Code 2020 is an ambigram that can be read from either direction. It serves as a calming signal for humanity and a call to help one another in a world turned upside down.

USFCAM’s participation in SOS Color Code 2020 is made possible by Major Sponsor the Stanton Storer Embrace the Arts Foundation, and by CAM’s Art for Community Engagement (ACE) funders.


Thursday, Oct 1, 2020 7pm EDT/6pm CDT, Virtual Conversation

USF Curator of Public Art and Social Practice Sarah Howard moderates a virtual conversation with SOS Color Code artists Luftwerk and Renata Graw, Principal at Normal, along with project participants Cortney Lederer, Director of CNL Projects and Art In Place and Dr. Lisa Yun Lee, Executive Director of the National Public Housing Museum.



Luftwerk is the artist collaboration of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero. With space as their canvas, they transform environments into immersive experiences. Since founding in 2007, Luftwerk has amassed a significant body of work ranging from site-specific installations to experimental projects that interpret data. In each project they are interested in the abilities of how light and color can be utilized to shift perception and enhance experience.


Normal is a multi-disciplinary graphic design practice based in Chicago. Normal believes thoughtful design and collaboration strengthens our collective knowledge and defines new ways of seeing, communicating and experiencing the world. Normal is Renata Graw, Tim Curley & Noël Morical.



The University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum (USFCAM) organizes and presents significant and investigative exhibitions of contemporary art from Florida, the United States, and around the world, including Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Exhibitions and educational programs are designed to introduce students, faculty, and the community to current cultural trends. USFCAM also publishes relevant catalogues, schedules critically important traveling exhibitions, and underwrites new projects by artists emerging on national and international fronts. USFCAM maintains the university’s art collection, comprising more than 5,000 art works.

The USF Contemporary Art Museum is recognized by the State of Florida as a major cultural institution and receives funding through the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The USF Contemporary Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.