Shepard Fairey Judges National Art Contest to Get Big Money Out of Presidential Elections

UPDATE: The Art > Money contest winner has been chosen and on Monday Oct. 29, people across the country are sharing the winning winning image. Share the image online, or IRL, and voice your support for keeping big money out of American politics. The winning image was created by Landon Wix of Tennessee; the judging panel included Shepard Fairey, Jesse Dylan, Lawrence Lessig, and Annie Leonard. Check out the winning image below: 

In 2008, the memorable message of the presidential election was “Hope.” Barack Obama ran on the promise of “Hope and Change,” and the artist Shepard Fairey provided just the right image to reflect and honor that promise.

When history looks back at the 2012 presidential election, the memorable words will not be inspirational but rather cynical: “money in politics.” 2012 is the first election year since Citizens United has allowed the formation of Super PACs and unlimited corporate donations to campaigns; the voice of the masses has been effectively quieted by the money of the few. Where Fairey's art became inextricably linked with "hope" in 2008, the "money in politics" battle still has no viral image; no piece of art that seeks to broadcast and editorialize upon the issue. One national art contest has stepped in to fill that gap; to use art as a tool of empowerment for those whose opinions have, essentially, been outspent.



The contest, Art > Money, is challenging artists to create an image to protest the presence and power of big money in the American political system. Fairey, along with Jesse Dylan (director of the “Yes We Can” music video), and activists Lawrence Lessis and Annie Leonard, are judging the submissions. The winner will be used in an online and off line art drop just days before the election, the hope being that its viral presence will spark conversation, controversy, and eventually, change. 


The mission behind the message is to push back against the power of big money in our political process. As Fairey said in a release for Art > Money, "This competition is about empowering people to take back control of their democracy, not from one party or another, but from the money that has concentrated political power in the hands of the few. It's about using art to push back against the existing power structures in our society and inspiring real change."

Money is a persuasive tool, and politics buys right into that persuasion. In 2012, outside spending in the presidential election hit record numbers ($465 million at September’s count), and 78% of that money can be directly attributed to Citizens United. A recent survey indicated that 83% of Americans think money is too prevalent in today's political system.

“Politicians are responsive to a tiny sliver of the population,” said Matt Palevsky partner of the Art > Money project and unPAC.org co-founder. “80% of the Super PAC money has come from only 169 people." Money skews the outcome of elections, Art > Money’s mission is to find a creative way for people on both sides of the political divide to approach and combat the issue.



The submitted images, are a hodge-podge of words and iconic American visuals. In one submission, the “I Voted” pin is graffitied to read “It Voted$.” In another, a traditional campaign-style poster projects slogans: “We are the 83%.” And “Super PACs are undemocratic." Notably  inspired by Fairey's work, many of the submissions visually incorporate the words that we associate with the issue. The highest voted submission on the site reads the words, "Democracy is sold to the highest bidder."



The artists are also prompted to answer the question, “What do you think is the biggest issue of money in politics today?” One artist wrote, “Although money is a motivator to expand our abilities as a society, it can easily blind us.” Another said, “Elected politicians are representing people’s wallets instead of people’s beliefs.”

Art > Money seeks to combat the power of the wallet through a tool that requires no money at all, the creation of art. Whether or not art can be a catalyst for change factors into the equation as well. Fairey's "Hope" did not win the 2008 election for Obama, but it did give an image to a feeling that millions of people wanted to express and share. This year's shared feeling is decidedly more negative but the desire to express and share it is no less poignant or prevalent. If the Art > Money submissions promote discussion, reflection, and shared experience then they've done their job. The mission is to push back, and to give a voice to those who don't believe that power should be paid for.

The contest’s winning image will be announced on October 22, and voting is already underway. Visit http://artmoney.maker.good.is/ to participate in voting. Check out the Art > Money site for information on participating in the October 29 art drop.