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As the presidential race zooms toward November, the San Antonio Report’s Gonzales Gallery offers an election-themed exhibition by five artists and designers affiliated with statewide voter advocacy group MOVE Texas.
The fourth show in an ongoing series of exhibitions, Gonzales Gallery Series IV: Art & Activism will open with a livestreamed event at 3 p.m. on Sept. 9 featuring MOVE Texas Communications Director Charlie Bonner, along with artists Adriant Bereal, Bithia Dantoumda, Sierra Devuyst, Lindsey Lee, and Ana Ruiz.
The event is free and open to the public, with registration required for access and a chance to interact with the artists during a question-and-answer session following a discussion on their work.
The five artists, all from Texas, make up the inaugural class of the National Artists of Texas Fellowship, a three-month voter engagement project. Each will present a collection of buttons, posters, postcards, and other materials designed to inspire young people to register to vote, and to form a regular habit of voting.
As a group, the fellows represent the 18 to 30 age group that MOVE Texas focuses on for its youth organizing activities.
“We’re bringing young artists who are all from around the state to really resonate with their own communities,” Bonner said, “to have young people speak to young people, and design for young people.”
Bereal, age 22, said he keeps his messaging to simple and short statements that are relevant to what’s happening locally and nationally. One such message is “let’s vote for a future we can actually live in.” He said his focus is less about specific politics than “people generally just having a much stronger interest in how the things that the people that are in positions of power [do] impact us on a daily basis.”
Among his own peer group, he sees “an overall increased engagement with things that are happening in the world, and people wanting to be more impactful in their decisions whether that be voting at the state, national, or local level.”
Lee emphasized that she is no expert on the “ins and outs” of complex local politics and relies on help with issues lent by social media figures such as Maria Elena Oliveira, who amid
st selfies regularly offers Texas voting guides with terse and clever language.
But as a designer, 29-year-old Lee feels empowered to help raise awareness through her work. “That’s what my forté is, creating designs and creating art that captures people’s attention,” she said. “And if I can use that skill to put a positive message out there and to help people choose to vote or choose to register to vote, that’s my personal intention. … I just want to use the skills that I have to be able to make a difference.”
One of her main messages for the project is “rain or shine, I vote,” which speaks not only to a determination to participate, but echoes the informal motto of the U.S. Postal Service that promises delivery workers will never let “snow nor rain nor heat” keep them from their appointed rounds.
With mail-in voting an issue leading up to the November presidential election, Devuyst has focused her work in part on the postal service, Bonner said. “She’s a small business owner and mails everything through the post office.”
The other artists have joined the effort with “save the USPS” graphics, Lee said. “The USPS is critical to the election and the overall infrastructure of our country, so it’s pretty disturbing to see what’s happening and the impact it could have on mail-in voting and ultimately, the election results.”
Issues like maintaining the postal service and climate change are what motivate young potential voters, said 24-year-old Ruiz. “We get excited about issues, rather than political parties.”
Given her Mexican heritage, the El Paso-based artist said she is motivated by the issue of immigration. Undocumented mmigrants were excluded from federal coronavirus relief funds, she said, and cannot vote in response. “I get passionate about voting because I am able to vote” as a citizen, she said.
“I cannot waste my vote, because I have the ability to vote and that is not something that everybody has. So I don’t take it for granted,” she said.
MOVE Texas began in 2013 among a group of motivated students at the University of Texas at San Antonio, but has since expanded to five additional cities – Austin, Dallas, Houston, Laredo, and San Marcos – with organizers in each location. On its website, MOVE points out that its name is an acronym for four key words that represent its mission: Mobilize, organize, vote, empower.
Materials made by the National Artists of Texas fellows will be available soon on the MOVE web store.