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The SNC community came together to design political banners under the direction of Moki Tantoco in the Mulva Library.

Promoting Democracy Through Art: A Timely Theme for On-Campus Programming This Fall

“Get Out the Vote” programming has been in full effect around campus. With its own creative twist, the art department is featuring a series of Art & Democracy-themed events to encourage student voting in the upcoming midterm elections.

The events were proposed by Brandon Bauer (Art) in partnership with the Norman Miller Center for Peace, Justice & Public Understanding. Bauer’s inspiration for the events stemmed from the need to create engaging opportunities for students to build off of in his Art & Creative Democracy course. Bauer says, “This course and the Art & Democracy events bring creativity to civic education through the arts. In this way, I hope we can begin to reinvigorate our democracy creatively.”

Make your voice heard
Both the Art & Creative Democracy class and campus events were planned intentionally to align with the upcoming mid-term elections. One of the main goals of the programing is to inspire all students, regardless of political background or interest level, to exercise their rights and get out their votes on Election Day. Abigail Hejmanowski ’23 says the events are bringing all members of the campus community out to vote: “Not everyone finds politics interesting or compelling, and certain communities are actively disenfranchised and disillusioned to the point of non-participation,” she says. “By making outreach efforts more individualized and artistic we can reconnect with these groups and generate more political participation, which will ultimately serve to improve our democracy.”

Getting outside the classroom
Enrolled in a service-learning class, students in the course are actively involved in the featured campus events and must participate in a variety of projects related to voting, registration and voter education. The Norman Miller Center has worked with the city clerk of De Pere to give Bauer’s students the opportunity to help prepare for and work as poll workers on Election Day. In addition to posters and stickers that students have created and distributed throughout campus, students of the class have also created their own banners to encourage voting among students and members of the campus community. The banners are now a part of the Han Sifuentes exhibit in the Bush Art Center.

Assistant director of the Miller Center Jill Olson describes the value these events and opportunities have for the campus community: “Art and a creative approach to our ‘Get Out the Vote’ efforts gives us the opportunity to reach students who may not be as connected or passionate about voting. It creates out-of-the-box ideas to connect their emotion and draws attention to the work we are doing.”

Students involved in the class and events bring perspectives from several different majors and backgrounds. Biology major Matthew Gille ’23 says: “Art is unique in that it can be presented in such a variety of forms. … Because of this, it has the capability of reaching almost any audience when utilized in the right way. This makes art a powerful tool in promoting voting and civic duties – essential components of a successful democratic society.”

Events around campus and virtual
The Art & Democracy events taking place on campus throughout the fall semester include three artists featuring their work in the Bush Art Center as well as several special guests leading lectures and events.

A notable piece by the Russian art collective Chto Delat? (translation: What is to be done?) was on display in the Bush Center Galleries. It represents a theatrical imagining of Bertolt Brecht’s poem “In Praise of Dialectics” to highlight protest in urban spaces. This work was done in collaboration with the activist groups Worker’s Democracy and the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement at Stachek Square. Also featured: “A Call to Halt” by Brandon Bauer, which overviews the timeline of the Euromissiles Crisis and reenacts the 1982 Nuclear Freeze Referenda. With more to come, the work of textile artist Aram Han Sifuentes is on display in the art center, in her collection “Let Us Vote!” which highlights democracy, citizenship and political participation.

Aram Han Sifuentes gave a virtual lecture on Sept. 6 in association with her Bush Arts Center exhibition. Dmitry Vilensky of Chto Delat? also gave a virtual lecture on Sept. 13, discussing the founding of the platform and its growth since 2003. Moki Tantoco led a protest banner making workshop on campus Oct. 20, and virtual lectures by Austrian artist Oliver Ressler and Dutch artist Jonas Staal are still to come.

Oct. 27, 2022