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How do you get out the vote in the Instagram age? Ask big-name artists to help

Artist Calida Garcia Rawles' work is part of a free library of voting advocacy images through the Plan Your Vote initiative.
Artist Calida Garcia Rawles’ work is part of a free library of voting advocacy images through the Plan Your Vote initiative.
(Calida Garcia Rawles / Plan Your Vote)

A Calida Garcia Rawles signature painting of a woman peacefully submerged in water; a Xylor Jane rhythmic, kaleidoscope painting bursting with color; a Laurie Simmons photograph of a gold stopwatch with human legs — these are just a few of the works in a library of free, downloadable images created by the voter advocacy platform Vote.org.

Launched Thursday, the nonpartisan Plan Your Vote initiative features original and new iterations of preexisting work from more than 60 artists including Robert Longo, Sally Mann, Julie Mehretu, Marilyn Minter and Wangechi Mutu.

For the record:

6:43 PM, Sep. 11, 2020An earlier version of this article said Christine Messineo is director of Hannah Hoffman Gallery. She is the former director.

The goal is to provide a trove of shareable imagery to spread across social media the message about the importance of voting.

All of the art is stamped with a PlanYourVote.org graphic. The website provides state-specific voting information and tools to help people check their registration, register to vote, get election reminders and find their polling place.

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Voting advocacy image from artist Candida Alvarez.
(Candida Alvarez / Plan Your Vote)

The initiative involves more than 50 art institutions, including the Underground Museum in L.A., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. They will share the art on their social media channels and promote the Vote.org platform on their websites.

The institutions and artists have a combined reach of 10 million followers on Instagram alone, said Vote.org Chief Executive Andrea Hailey, who added that about 60% of the people who use the platform are 35 and younger.

“In a landscape where people are constantly scrolling through Instagram and social media, there’s something we can inject in there that’s positive and beautiful and very human, that can connect people back to where we are in this moment and why voting is important,” Hailey said.

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Plan Your Vote Executive Director Christine Messineo began working on the project about two months ago. As an art professional — she’s the former director of L.A.’s Hannah Hoffman Gallery and a former partner at New York’s Bortolami Gallery — she was looking for a way to make an impact.

An image from Artist Robert Longo for Plan Your Vote.
An image from Artist Robert Longo for Plan Your Vote.
(Robert Longo / Plan Your Vote)

Messineo reached out to Hailey, a childhood friend and art collector, and proposed a campaign that harnessed her art connections.

Vote.org is utilitarian, Messineo said. The organization has registered more than 4.7 million voters, verified 10.9 million voters’ registration status and helped more than 4.3 million request their mail-in ballot.

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“It’s about getting information out there and having it be really concise,” Messineo said, noting that such a campaign needs a visual language.

“Coming from the art world, I understand the impact of a visual identity and visual language and how motivating that can be,” she added. “People are just generally more excited to look at something that’s not solely text based or has a graphic element to it.”

A small L.A. artist collective beats out more than 100 entries from around the world with a “friendly” design that balances the past with the future.

For Messineo, it was important to include a diverse group of artists in the project, as the focus of Vote.org is increasing turnout among communities of color and young people.

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Many artists created completely original artwork including watercolor, drawing and photography, while others made new iterations of existing works that aligned with Plan Your Vote’s messaging. For preexisting works, the artists combined the Plan Your Vote graphics with elements of the original art to make a cohesive new piece.

As a nonpartisan organization, the visual library couldn’t include any images in support of or against a specific candidate.

The original submission from sound artist Christine Sun Kim, a charcoal drawing with “Vote. Him. Out.” text above musical notes was changed to “Vote.Vote.Vote.” Colorful paintings by Minter that read “Resist” and “Sad!” and a vibrant “Basta” (“Enough”) painting by Candida Alvarez were deemed nonpartisan.

Artist Christine Sun Kim's voting advocacy image for Plan Your Vote.
Artist Christine Sun Kim’s voting advocacy image for Plan Your Vote.
(Christine Sun Kim / Plan Your Vote)
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Vote.org “would lose their tax-exempt status if they are connected to or endorsing any candidate or proposition,” Messineo said. “It’s been a back and forth. The only reason that we’re able to partner with all of these museums is because we are nonpartisan.”

Hailey hopes the project will lead to more people registering to vote and others beginning to plan how they will vote in November.

“Every state has a different way of administering its elections so it makes for a complicated landscape in what is a chaotic time,” Hailey said. “We just want to make sure no one gets disenfranchised from the process.”

Artist Dyani White Hawk's work for Plan Your Vote.
Artist Dyani White Hawk’s work for Plan Your Vote.
(Dyani White Hawk / Plan Your Vote)
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