Over eight years ago, street artist Shepard Fairey created a graphic portrait of then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama, an image that promptly became ingrained in the minds of most American citizens. The image’s sole written word, “Hope,” embodied the ethos of the time, the overwhelming conviction that our nation’s government could provide for all its citizens, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.
Now, on the brink of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, we are living in a very different America, one in which many of the tenets on which this nation was founded ― freedom of expression, freedom of religion, equal justice for all ― are seemingly under threat.
To address this surreal moment in American history, Fairey is once again turning to the power of art. Though instead of hope, the artist is advocating for resistance. Fairey is collaborating with muralist Jessica Sabogal and political artist Ernesto Yerena on an activist art project entitled “We the People,” which will flood the public consciousness come inauguration day. The project, commissioned by The Amplifier Foundation, aims to visualize the non-partisan principles that always characterized the true spirit of America ― diversity, democracy and shared humanity.
Fairey, Yerena, and Sabogal teamed up to create the series of posters, which can be used by protesters marching in Washington on Jan. 21. Citing the possibility of “restrictions on signs and banners” in some parts of the district during inauguration weekend, however, We the People decided to get creative. To sidestep restrictions and ensure that the images could be distributed in such a short amount of time, they turned to an old media staple: newspapers.
The grassroots campaign is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to take out full-page advertisements in the Washington Post on Jan. 20, each featuring a work of protest art that can, conveniently, be ripped out and taken to the streets. With days to go, the campaign has far exceeded the $60,000 goal meant to pay for six ads ― We the People has almost reached $1 million worth of donations.
Come inauguration weekend, the Amplifier Foundation will also circulate some posters at D.C. metro stops, “from the back of moving vans,” and at drop spots that have yet to be announced. As usual, all of Amplifier’s images will be available for free download ahead of time.
Those interested in supporting the project can still head to Kickstarter to help bring art to the streets of Washington on a day when all of America will be watching. The campaign closes on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 7:00 p.m. ET. Following the inauguration, We the People intends to send the five images to the new president as postcards, PBS reports.
As we approach the beginning of Trump’s presidency, artists across the country have felt empowered to rise up and resist the normalization of racism, sexism and hate. In the words of Fairey himself: “I think art can help to wake people up because when an image resonates emotionally we want to get to the bottom of it, and art really helps to make people feel things that then they talk about.”
The Amplifier Foundation also created a call out for poster art from women-identifying and non-binary people across the country, to be used at the Women’s March on Washington. You can download and print five out of the eight selected posters for free on the website.