Daily: Artists and the Election


We found this article on artnet.com about artists’ response to the election pretty interesting. Artists expressed their concerns over a divided America, and some offered suggestions about how we move forward.

For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, uses art to inspire deeper political engagement for citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape. The artists noted: “Some data suggests that not since the American Civil War has the country been so polarized. We believe that the seeming binaries propagated by political candidates, their followers, and the media will crumble. Nothing is black and white. Even with the election over, people did not wake up on Tuesday with good will in their hearts toward their political opponents. I personally want to start finding ways to listen more deeply. The problems we face are so much more complicated than either candidate has spoken about. Elections are not about nuance and we hope that we can begin to have more complicated conversations about things like America’s role in the world, how our economy is fundamentally shifting, and what justice looks like. These big conversations demand attention and care and time and thought…hopefully these will be in larger supply post election.”

Pedro Reyes’ offered an observation and solution that challenges not only artists, but institutions: “Looking at the electoral map, I realize that I have never been in most of the red states. Curiously, there is also a lack of contemporary art institutions in those states. I think that even if it’s a small contribution, I would like to see more contemporary art institutions emerge in those states, since they are always a beacon of progressive thought. We need to stop talking to ourselves and reach new audiences.”

Shinique Smith echoes Reyes’ thoughts: “As a citizen and artist, I think we must not only make artwork that is politically active in subject matter, but that we must be present and participate outside of art world institutions to assist our communities in effecting real change.”

Read more here.

2 thoughts on “Daily: Artists and the Election

  1. Hello,

    First of all, thank you for sharing this article! It is very insightful and contains many things worth discussing and thinking about. Also, since ya’ll did not write this article, I hesitate to sound too critical, but I felt I must share my reaction to one of the quotes that you guys chose to pull out and highlight here.

    Pedro Reyes’ quote: “Looking at the electoral map, I realize that I have never been in most of the red states. Curiously, there is also a lack of contemporary art institutions in those states.”

    (Just a personal reaction, the fact that he hasn’t been in most of the red states on the electoral college map is kind of sad, considering that leaves a huge portion of the country that he has never seen or traveled in. I would say he’s missing out, but that’s just me.)

    However, the second part of that quote is disturbing to me, because I think it is misinformed at best and harmful at worst. Below I have listed out the major institutions, galleries and collectives that are dedicated to or show contemporary art that I know of in the states that voted “red”, found through either a quick Google search, personal experience, or knowledge based on the local area where I am based. There are many more smaller galleries or groups that I have not listed. This is NOT exhaustive or scientific, this is simply personal knowledge combined with a quick Internet search–but I will note that even a quick look at the Wikipedia page for contemporary art institutions in the US shows that half that list is in the “red” states.

    Now talking about the quality of those institutions and exhibits, or their popularity compared to their northern and west coast equivalents, is another discussion. And I agree with Pedro that more and better contemporary art institutions and availability to the public is a good and change-enacting thing. But just based on how he worded his thoughts here, I think that his analysis and dismissal of these parts of the country on their appreciation for, engagement in, and creation of critically-thinking, questioning, boundary-pushing, quality artwork and the social ramifications it carries, is sorely misguided.

    I wish I had a way of reaching him directly, but writing here is what I can do now. Since Happenings is based here, and knows about so much of the good work coming out of our local area, I think it is important that we acknowledge that and continue to find ways to prove the stereotypes wrong.

    Thanks for reading,



    701 Center Contemporary Art—Columbia, South Carolina

    Arizona State University Art Museum—Tempe, Arizona

    Artpace—San Antonio, Texas

    Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (Nexus)—Atlanta, Georgia

    Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston–Houston, Texas

    Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum—San Antonio, Texas

    The Contemporary—Austin, Texas

    Contemporary Art Museum—St. Louis, Missouri

    Contemporary Arts Center—Cincinnati, Ohio

    Contemporary Arts Museum Houston—Houston, Texas

    Contemporary Art Museum (CAM)—Raleigh, North Carolina

    Dalton Gallery, Arts Council of York County—Rock Hill, South Carolina

    Elsewhere Museum—Greensboro, North Carolina

    The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts—Tampa, Florida

    Goodyear Arts—Charlotte, North Carolina

    Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art—Charleston, South Carolina

    Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art—Indianapolis, Indiana

    Institute of Contemporary Art—Miami, Florida

    Institute of Contemporary Art—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art—Kansas City, Missouri

    LaCa Projects—Charlotte, North Carolina

    The Light Factory—Charlotte, North Carolina

    The MAC—Dallas, Texas

    Madison Museum of Contemporary Art—Madison, Wisconsin

    Mattress Factory—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    The McColl Center—Charlotte, North Carolina

    Mint Museum (modern and contemporary)—Charlotte, North Carolina

    Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth—Fort Worth, Texas

    Modified Arts—Phoenix, Arizona

    Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)—Atlanta, Georgia

    Museum of Contemporary Art—Cleveland, Ohio

    Museum of Contemporary Art—Denver, Colorado

    Museum of Contemporary Art—Detroit, Michigan

    Museum of Contemporary Art—Jacksonville, Florida

    Museum of Contemporary Art—Miami, Florida

    Museum of Contemporary Art—Tucson, Arizona

    Orlando Museum of Art—Orlando, Florida

    Redux Contemporary Art Center-Charleston, South Carolina

    Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art—Scottsdale, Arizona

    SOCO Gallery—Charlotte, North Carolina

    Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECA)—Winston-Salem, North Carolina

    Station Museum of Contemporary Art—Houston, Texas

    Utah Museum of Contemporary Art—Salt Lake City, Utah

    USF Contemporary Art Museum—Tampa, Florida

    Winthrop University Galleries—Rock Hill, South Carolina

    • Rebecca, an insightful reply! And we thank you for it. It is true that everyone, including erudites, artists, staunch conservatives, and average joes, are all slightly uninformed one way or another.

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