City Tech Alum Makes Powerful Art;
Her Anti-Fracking Billboard Reaches Millions
- New York City College of Technology - Newswise — Brooklyn, NY --
When thousands of citizens opposed to “fracking” present their case
to legislators in Albany this spring, chances are that some of them
will carry posters of a controversial billboard created by New York
City College of Technology (City Tech) graduate
Svetlana (Lana) Akhmadieva.
Russian-born Akhmadieva, who graduated in June 2011 with a bachelor of technology
degree in communication design, designed the now-famous anti-fracking
billboard that was mounted in South Montrose, near the town of
Dimock, PA, where water contamination linked to gas drilling by
Cabot Oil and Gas has, for more than three years, made some
families’ well water undrinkable.
Drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) are used to extract
natural gas trapped deep below the earth’s surface by pressurized
injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals.
releases the gas -- along with toxic substances, chemicals, heavy
metals and radioactive materials that can contaminate air and local
Akhmadieva’s high-impact billboard, sponsored by Catskill Citizens
for Safe Energy, features red banners proclaiming, “Fix it!
years of contaminated water,” and a photo of a pitcher full of
greenish drinking water with sediment at the bottom that was drawn
out of the well of one of the affected families.
These elements are
set against a background scroll listing some of the dozens of toxic
chemicals that now contaminate the well.
Last August, a press conference was held in front of the billboard
to publicize the ongoing water problem in Dimock but, three days
after the billboard went up, Cabot and pro-fracking groups succeeded
in forcing its removal, sparking the billboard company to declare it
will no longer accept advertising from citizens involved with
“I didn’t really know what was happening at
the time,” says 25-year-old Akhmadieva of the response to her art,
“but I did know it was making a lot of noise.” Asked if she wanted
to remove her credit line from the billboard after the controversy
erupted, she declined.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done,” she says.
Since then, the image has become ubiquitous, appearing in YouTube
videos, on T-shirts and buttons, and at hearings of the New York
State Legislature, U.S. Congress and New York City Council.
billboard image is displayed in Dimock -- on a garage roof, so that
low-flying planes and cars driving by can see its message.
television interviews, the homeowners often wear a tee shirts
bearing Akhmadieva’s work.
Akhmadieva, a Sheepshead Bay resident, considers herself a supporter
of environmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and
Greenpeace, rather than a street activist, but believes it was very
important for Dimock to put up the billboard.
“Every day we drink
clean water from our tap,” she asserts, “and we never think about
it. Water is an essential part of our lives, and the situation in Dimock absolutely cannot be left like this.
The people there were
struggling and suffering with this problem and couldn’t get it
fixed, so they decided to expose the situation.”
Akhmadieva was recruited for the project by City Tech Adjunct
Assistant Professor Alice Zinnes and Professor Robert Holden.
who owns a house in Pennsylvania in a possible target area for fracking, is involved in local, state and national anti-fracking
“Lana was the first person I contacted,” says Zinnes. “I
needed to find someone with strong software and design experience.
She was fantastic to work with.”
“At the time I was looking for a job,” Akhmadieva explains, “but I
took on this project for free. I decided to go ahead and risk it,
because this was an environmental project.
My senior project at City
Tech also had an environmental theme: I designed packaging for
Currently, Akhmadieva is a graphic designer for MNS, a large
Manhattan-based real estate brokerage, for which she develops
company branding and marketing materials.
“I always was interested
in art,” she says.
“While I was in high school in my home city of Naberejny Chelny, I went to four years of art school.
When I came to
the U.S. in 2005, I thought, ‘I didn’t spend that time for nothing.’
I chose a graphic design and illustration major at Kingsborough
Community College, then decided to continue at City Tech, because it
could offer me the major I was interested in and at the same time
As the situation in Dimock worsens, with Cabot refusing to pay for a
pipeline to bring in clean drinking water, the state allowing the
company to stop delivering clean water to families who are suing,
and the Environmental Protection Agency refraining from declaring
water undrinkable even though it contains elevated levels of
chemical contaminants, Akhmadieva’s billboard has become a potent,
and possibly permanent, symbol of the struggle against fracking.
New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City
University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public college of
technology in New York State. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown
Brooklyn, the College enrolls more than 16,000 students in 62
baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs.
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