Culture

5 Best Art World Protests Against Trump

The revolution will be painted, drawn, photographed and sung.

Aside from the $10,000 self-portrait Donald Trump spent his charity’s money on, our president-elect is no fan of art. His disdain reached Jesse Helms levels Thursday morning when the Hill reported that among other draconian budget cuts, the new administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Is he unhappy with the ending of "Downton Abbey"? Does Barron think "Sesame Street" is passe? Does Trump miss the 1980s so much that instead of bringing back shoulder pads, he thought he’d revive the debates over government funding for Karen Finley’s chocolate-covered naked performance art or Robert Mapplethorpe’s erotic photos? Unless he tweets about it, we may never know, so fortunately the art world has been organizing its resistance.

Inauguration weekend, the organizers promise, is only the beginning of the creative resistance. Read on for five ways to get started. 

1. J20 Art Strike.

Art world luminaries such as Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman and Marilyn Minter are some of the 400-plus signees of a letter endorsing the J20 Art Strike, a request that museums and cultural institutions of all kinds close their doors on January 20. Among their demands:

"An Act of Noncompliance on Inauguration Day. No Work, No School, No Business. Museums. Galleries. Theaters. Concert Halls. Studios. Nonprofits. Art Schools. Close For The Day. Hit The Streets. Bring Your Friends. Fight Back."

Museums responded in a variety of ways, as Quartz reports. Some are closing altogether. Others, like the Whitney in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and the Walker Center in Minneapolis offered pay-what-you-wish admission. The Brooklyn Museum hosted a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again."

Art website Hyperallergic has a running list of participating institutions.

2. Nasty Women art shows.

Artist Roxanne Jackson’s Facebook post was casual: “Hello female artists/curators! Lets organize a nasty women group show! Who's interested?” Little did she know she’d have 300-plus responses within an hour. What was initially conceived as a short, small group exhibition, blossomed, with the help of her co-organizers into a four-day Planned Parenthood fundraiser at New York City’s Knockdown Center, with nearly 700 participants who submitted their work to an open call.

It was the most egalitarian of group shows, with no one turned away as long as they submitted on time and adhered to size requirements, plus no piece was priced over $100, even for artists whose work regularly fetches into the tens of thousands. There were sculptures, paint and glitter, and gold. There are also now, according to the exhibition’s website, 23 confirmed sister exhibitions across the world running through February.

Even more importantly, $50,000 was raised, $42,000 for Planned Parenthood, and through an additional fundraiser, $8,000 for additional women’s charities. There was anger, yes, but as co-organizer Jasmine Fiore told New York Magazine, “Art creates resistance because it creates empathy. It exposes you to new ideas and connects you to new people and new communities. That’s always going to be its power.”

3. Artists Shepard Fairey, Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yeren raise $1.3 million on Kickstarter for protest art.

Ernesto Yeren, We The Resilient 

Shepard Fairey designed the iconic Hope images for the 2008 Obama campaign, featuring the president’s face bathed in red, white and blue light. Instead of spending inauguration day staring at posters as frayed as our feelings, Fairey joined fellow artists Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yeren and the Amplifier Foundation (an "art machine for social change") to design new art in time for inauguration weekend. The aim, according to the Kickstarter page, is to “flood” Washington with hopeful images.

As the campaign states, "On January 20, if this campaign succeeds, we're going to take out full-page ads in the Washington Post with these images, so that people across the capitol and across the country will be able to carry them into the streets, hang them in windows, or paste them on walls.”

Shephard Fairey, Greater Than Fear

At $1.3 million, they’re miles ahead of the initial $60,000 goal. Aside from being free, the best part is, none of the three images features the face of the 45th president.

Jessica Sabogal, Women are Perfect 

4. What a Joke Comedy Festival.

Comedians may have enjoyed eviscerating Trump during the campaign, but many of the jokes were topped with a giant scoop of "this can't happen here." Well, it can and it did, and now, all weekend long, residents of 20 cities across America can go to the What a Joke Comedy Fest and ask themselves the ever important question: Do jokes still work? All ticket proceeds go to the ACLU.

The shows feature bigger names like Janeane Garofalo, Laurie Kilmartin and Nikki Glaser, as well as up-andecomers like Josh Gondelman and Jo Firestone. Visit the What a Joke website for the full list of cities and shows and watch the trailer below. Don't have a show in your city? You can still buy one of their red and white What a Joke hats, which also benefit the ACLU and bear a striking resemblence to a certain orange menace's preferred headgear. 

Watch the trailer below: 

5. Banner Drop Against Hate.

On the morning of January 20, dozens of buildings in Atlanta and Philadelphia were adorned with artist-made banners or signs of solidarity, displaying, as the group's Facebook page describes, "messages of love and inclusivity to stand in opposition to hate and in protest of any and all that embolden divisiveness."

The idea started with Philadelphia artists and curators who wanted to display anti-racism banners on private homes. It eventually snowballed into a citywide movement, with business owners and residents alike agreeing to drop their banners Friday morning. A group of arts organizations heard about the project and decided to create a sister campaign. As the Philadelphia organizers put it, "We refuse to accept the normalization of divisiveness and the hate it breeds. Philadelphia is not only the birthplace of American democracy, but the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection." 

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

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