Last year, the Wexner Center presented the work of the artist Jenny holzer as part of an exhibition entitled “here. “Some of the pieces were displayed offsite, and for that, Holzer and the Wex have teamed up with Orange Barrel Media, an agency specializing in large-scale, digital and non-traditional outdoor advertising.
Recently, Orange Barrel CEO Pete Scantland said Holzer has reached out with an idea related to the upcoming election. “She had written new works of art that were meant to encourage people to vote, and she wanted to perform them in Pittsburgh and North Carolina,” Scantland said. “As our conversations evolved, we decided to go bigger than that and spread it across our footprint nationwide. … But also, let’s think about how to broaden the perspective by also inviting other artists.
The idea turned into Art for Action, a non-partisan campaign to get the vote appearing on 500 screens in 16 cities and featuring the work of Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, Jeffrey Gibson, Tomashi jackson and more. Locally, Dionne Custer Edwards, director of learning and public practice at the Wexner Center, expanded the initiative to include Columbus artists such as Adam hernandez, Stephanie Rond, Lisa mclymont, David Butler and others.
While the visuals of the various artists are meant to be thought-provoking, Scantland wanted passers-by to do more than think. He wanted concrete actions, and to promote that, the initiative had to give viewers the information they needed to register and vote.
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“The thing we thought was missing in many efforts to get the vote and a lot of the talk around the election was, in practice, creating a sense of urgency to register to vote by mail. How are you going to do it? Much of our campaign therefore revolves around personalization for each voting jurisdiction. We were surprised to find that, for example, in some states the registration deadline could be very different from other states, ”said Scantland. “We’ve created a countdown timer so people know when to register in each state. Our hope is that through a combination of the artists’ inspirational messages and our call to action, we can get more people to participate. “
Orange Barrel estimates that the campaign reaches a daily audience of over 3 million people and a total audience of over 100 million. The agency’s interactive “IKE Smart City” kiosks are ideal for providing information to potential voters, but all the designs and styles of digital billboards have proven to be a logistical challenge.
“It was an insane amount of work, as it worked on 500 different screens, some of which were of the same proportions and specifications, but others not,” said Scantland. “We ended up with over 1,000 unique files, and we wrote software that automated the countdown of different deadlines, so we had to customize it for each market as well.”
The crossover with the Wexner Center was a natural fit, especially given the current Wex Tomashi Jackson exhibition, “Love Rollercoaster” which explores ideas about voting and inequalities in the democratic process.
Custer Edwards also thought critically about which local artists to include. “We wanted to identify artists who we think could really talk about this campaign in a way that feels authentic to their own practice,” she said. “Stéphanie Rond does this kind of art that manifests itself in public space, and the content of her work made a lot of sense. David Butler can work this way too. He’s a brilliant painter, but you are also likely to come across his work on the side of a building with a mural. And David paints towards these ideas of identity, liberty, liberation and fairness.
“We’ve always focused on working with artists and artistic institutions, and over the past two years it’s taken on a new urgency – even before COVID – with people realizing that museums sometimes reach quite a rarefied audience.” , said Scantland. “Despite the good intentions of art museums to expand this, there are a lot of people who just aren’t interested in the works of art inside the museum. So we were very happy to partner up. to artists to make their work known in the public space and present it in a very democratic and very egalitarian way. Institutions like the Wexner Center are doing this and are starting to see their work as an engagement with the community beyond their four walls. “
And for the Wex, which recently provided voter registration forms in its Free Space gallery and offered to send correspondence from visitors to the museum to their elected officials, Art for Action was the perfect combination of art and citizenship. . “It involves looking, thinking, but there is also an actionable element,” said Custer Edwards. “The hope is to harness that energy and spark interest in participating in a civic process – to engage civically and to think about how art could be part of this conversation about civic engagement. “