When an artist got his hands on these 2 billboards, they became windows to the natural world.

A lot of us start our days like this:

Photo by Eric Demarcq/Flickr.


After spending so much time pulling our hair out in standstill traffic, we're usually looking for anything that might brighten our morning. A fresh cup of coffee. A surprise call from a friend. Something little that breaks up the monotony and holds the stress at bay, even for just a minute.

But what if the morning commute didn't have to be so bad?

That's why artist Brian Kane decided to delight commuters in Boston by replacing billboards with powerful pictures of nature.


Photos by Simone Schiess, used with permission.

Brian has an interesting background as both a fine artist and as a user-experience designer for websites. Where those worlds collide is where he's done some of his best work.

"I'm trying to apply the rules of good user experience to public art," he told Upworthy. "We've learned a lot about how to give users beautiful moments in UX. I want to take those best practices and apply them to the real world."

Having nothing to look at during your morning commute other than a giant, faded photo of a Big Mac? That's bad user experience.

That led him to this project, called "Healing Tool" (a reference to a tool in Photoshop that allows designers to easily retouch photos), in which he and his team placed two digital billboards just north of metro Boston, in one of the most congested areas of the city. He rented the ad space earlier this year from Clear Channel for a month, fair and square.

But instead of featuring big brand logos or exciting "limited time offers," Kane's billboards were, essentially, windows into nature. They displayed photos of the natural landscape, which rotated throughout the day and night.

They were gorgeous.

There's no conservation fund behind this. No mission to save the trees or combat global warming. Just an attempt to make the world a little more pleasant.

This year, advertisers are expected to spend about $540 billion globally, according to Ad Age. Meanwhile, Scenic America estimates there are as many as 780,000 billboards lining U.S. roads.

But Kane insists he's not out to make a big statement about advertising or to fight for the beautification of our highways. He just wanted to create something people would enjoy looking at.

He calls it a campaign without a message.

"People just like the idea of something pleasant in their daily life that's not selling them anything."

Which is why, he says, he resisted the urge to put his logo, website, or even his name on the billboards.

The response was tremendous.

"I got a lot of phone calls from happy commuters, and that makes me happy," he said. "If you can give them 20 seconds of joy, I think that's really what an artist should aim to do."

Kane says he hopes to bring the project to new areas in the spring, especially outside the U.S. But he has no plans to brand it or expand on its underlying message.

"I want this to be open to interpretation," he added. "I think, in my opinion, that's what makes it stronger"

You can see his billboards in action below:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less