By Cori Wilbur
September 17, 2020
On August 26, 1920, ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment acknowledged women’s suffrage. To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of this milestone and energize people for the election on November 3rd, Gather is showcasing the multi-site exhibition Get Out the Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote, a collection of posters created by some of the best women in graphic design.
Gather is a creative coalition which includes San Diego State University, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Bread & Salt and Art Produce. The poster campaign organizers see Empowering as a way to inspire women in graphic design, support voting rights, create community and promote diversity. The posters, which went up last Thursday, are on display in the windows of these venues throughout San Diego until Election Day.
The poster campaign was developed by AIGA in partnership with the League of Women Voters, and was featured during San Diego Design Week. Since 2000, AIGA has been using art and design to increase voter participation through Design for Democracy.
“Art and community mobilization go hand in hand,” said featured artist Arzu Ozkal. Moreover, she pointed out that the original suffragists used posters with powerful imagery and text to get their point across. Empowering is both an homage to these early activists as well as a re-imagining of their efforts to encompass what is at stake for us in the upcoming election.
Ozkal, a professor at SDSU School of Art and Design, is one of 71 female designers participating in this exhibition. She, initially, proposed the idea to make Empowering an exterior exhibition, since each of the involved venues usually have great foot traffic. Moreover, she acknowledged the need to display these posters outside.
“Street art and posters reconfigure the traditional relationship between the work and the viewer,” she pointed out. “As the viewer actively engages with them in the real world, these posters can comfort or activate the public.” So, even as many galleries and museums remain closed because of the pandemic, patrons are enabled to view the art and take in the meaning from the street.
Still, women–especially women of color–continue to face discrimination and oppression, on a multitude of levels in this country.
“Art and design enable us to communicate, express and critically think about racial injustice and global male hegemony,” she vocalized. Artists have the tools to confront racism and sexism in a poetic way.
Additionally, as self-identified women, the artists and many viewers alike, have a responsibility to raise their voices and bring awareness to the interconnectedness of the issues we still face. Ozkal says her poster broaches Jenny Holzer’s Truism about interconnectedness: the intersectionality of violence, discrimination, racial inequality and inaccessibility to health services or affordable childcare which is still a very real struggle.
She affirmed the importance of voting, as iterated by the art on display. Each poster is a reminder that women have not always been allowed to vote and a prompt for women to use their votes to ignite and inspire change.
“Studying this history and making it available to communities of color may inspire the next generation of girls and young women to take action,” said Ozkal. In turn, this reflection “may increase their political participation–crucial to achieving racial equity.”