The intersect of art and politics finds its place at one of Utah State’s on-campus galleries

By Lydia Velazquez

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A political art exhibition on Utah State University’s campus will host an “election watch party” as part of a series of events aimed at encouraging students to be political involved.

The Nov. 6 party, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., is the final “town hall” that is part of “Fifty States,” the current exhibition in the Caine College of the Arts’ Tippets and Eccles galleries.

That, in turn, is part of a national project, the For Freedoms initiative, that was co-founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman.

The project was brainstormed in 2016 as a way to encourage civic engagement and political discourse as well as to recognize how art is a method of political activism.

“College students are the ones who will shape the future,” said Marissa Vigneault, an art history professor at USU, “and it is our obligation as educators to make sure they are fully engaged, knowledgeable, and aware of the world outside of northern Utah.”

To promote the purpose of the exhibition and further educate citizens about important issues that are on this year’s ballot, there have been town halls held in the gallery space covering a range of topics, from climate change to how local candidates view the humanities.

“Being invested in culture  and participating in culture is how we celebrate our humanity and how we learn as a group,” Utah Cultural Alliance executive Crystal Young-Otterstrom said. “Bringing that into our political experience, where government is overseeing how we exist as a society, how we coexist as a community, putting those boundaries that help us exist, putting the funding together that helps arts and humanities thrive and function makes perfect sense.”

Locations around the country are participating in For Freedoms in different ways.

USU’s contribution, designed by two graphic design students, is an art exhibition highlighting free speech. In the galleries there are various posters as well as a video on loop showing LGBTQ pop artist Keith Haring, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and student activist Emma Gonzalez, among others, demonstrating their freedoms.

The exhibition is interactive — there are small pads of paper for individuals to write their thoughts about political issues, and tape to stick the notes to one of the gallery’s walls.

There is also an iPad for visitors to check if they are registered to vote.

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