Art/Design, News & Events

Art for Action: artists using billboards to encourage U.S. citizens to Vote

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Oct 24, 2020

It is three weeks before the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, and people everywhere are trying to get everyone to vote. Arts have devised a public art project that is meant to reach hundreds of millions of potential voters. 


The project is called “Art for Action,” where 350 digital screens in 16 cities across the U.S. will feature works by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Jenny Holzer, Tomashi Jackson, and Jeffrey Gibson among others. It’ll run through Election Day, making it the largest non-partisan public art campaign to raise awareness about voting.


Organized by Orange Barrel Media, the project will run for a month. This massive effort will be viewed by approximately 3 million people every day and is meant to counter voter suppression in one of the most stressful and anticipated elections in the country’s history. The large-format digital screens hosting the artworks are being subverted, as they are normally reserved for commercial purposes. These public spaces will now show artist-designed calls to action in a rotation of minute-long content.


Each distinctive artist retained their own visual language and style. We have, for example, Jenny Holzer’s immediately recognized block letters and Tomashi Jackson’s multi-layered surfaces. However, these compositions are less about aesthetics and more about sending the message across. They are meant to be straightforward rather than convoluted, because they will be viewed by hurried passersby and drivers as well as pedestrians. The artists participating have long been known for their activism and inserting political and social messages into their artwork. 


The project is also interactive: it features interactive kiosks that have a real-time clock counting down to November 3. This is accompanied by several voting resources, where people can use the touch-screen feature to register to vote through a QR code. The aim is for the artworks to help those who still have not registered or are still undecided about voting this year. Follow the rest of our election coverage with our Election Jitters tag.


Photo via Orange Barrel Media