Featured photo: Screenshot from Downtown GSO’s promo video.

You might have seen it driving into downtown. Or maybe it caught, or rather, assaulted your eyes as you drove down Battleground Avenue. Either way, it’s likely that if you live in Greensboro and have driven around in the last few weeks, you’ve seen the awful Downtown Greensboro billboards that have popped up around the city.

And on the off chance you haven’t, I’m here to tell you: they’re truly terrible.

It’s been a while since I went in on some public art, but these billboards are so awful that I really felt called to say something.

A white lady wearing half a watermelon on her head watches me as I switch lanes. I see her everyday, and I hate her.

In another part of the billboard, a man…a head? Whatever, a figure’s face is made up of tendrils of vegetables which is shown to me in profile. Yeah, you read that right.

Put up a few weeks ago, the two billboards funded by Downtown Greensboro Inc., tout the slogan, “Taste What’s Real” using a mishmash of ridiculous AI-generated art. And it’s so dumb.

We in Greensboro have a wealth of wonderful, talented artists who could have been commissioned to make billboards that entice residents to dine downtown. We have photographers who regularly take mouthwatering shots and footage of local food. Why not use one of them to show the actual meals that we have here?

Instead, what we get is some melted nonsense that looks like someone spent 15 minutes in Midjourney or Dall-E typing a prompt like, “a collage of random white people wearing fruit, but make it Dalí.”

When a community member pointed out how absolutely terrible the billboards were on Facebook, Ian McDowell of Yes! Weekly was quick to trace that the thinking was explained in Downtown Greensboro’s promotional video which uses the same imagery.

The watermelon lady pops up again, and we enter the center white lady’s sunglasses which reflect actual food served in our local restaurants.

“Where AI ends, real experiences begin,” the video explains. Then wonderful footage, gorgeously shot, of downtown restaurants, breweries and more take up the rest of the video. I get it; it’s a marketing ploy. But how many people are going to see the tiny website on the billboard and actually watch the video? Instead, these unfortunate hallucinations feel like a missed opportunity at best and a prank that no one thinks is funny at worst. Maybe the entire ad campaign is, in fact, an AI-generated idea.

At least these absurd works of “art” weren’t created using our tax dollars. Oh wait, they kind of were.

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