Enough of Trump billboard campaign gains traction ahead of US election
American artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Ed Ruscha and Hank Willis Thomas have joined voices for an ambitious billboard initiative with a direct message
The calls for change that have been bubbling across the country have been escalating. Among the most noteworthy of these efforts is a recently unveiled billboard campaign from People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy organisation that has been fighting right-wing extremism and working to implement the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for almost 40 years.
The group’s Enough of Trump campaign presents its goal plainly. Featuring the works of more than a dozen American artists ranging from Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra and Carrie Mae Weems to Jeffrey Gibson, Christine Sun Kim and Hank Willis Thomas – all conveying the simple message that enough is enough, the collaborative project aims to galvanise voters in several of the country’s key swing states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, through the power of public art.
‘The idea of “Enough” really came from [founder, and renowned television producer] Norman Lear himself. When they first brought it up, I thought, “enough?” I’m not sure if “enough” is enough. I really had my doubts about it,’ says Weems, who played a major role in putting together the roster of artists and has been involved with People for the American Way for many years. ’But in the months that have followed, just the elegant simplicity of its meaning, that a simple word has the ability to encapsulate so much, I’ve really fallen in love with it.’
‘Everything that we’ve seen: from the waters that are raging, the fires that are burning, the killings that are taking place, particularly the endless series of assaults on Black and brown people, the changing of our climate. This is absolutely it. It is so succinct: enough of this. We are going to make a change. It really came to epitomise all that I am so fed up with across the board. As is the country.’
‘Everything that we’ve seen: from the waters that are raging, the fires that are burning, the killings that are taking place, particularly the endless series of assaults on Black and brown people, the changing of our climate. This is absolutely it. It is so succinct: enough of this’
While the messaging of the campaign is clear, Weems asserts that ‘enough’ has broader goals beyond a change of presidential leadership. ‘Enough doesn’t just carry a Democratic [party] message. Trump simply epitomises the vast levels of corruption [at the root of things]. He is the epitome of the worst of the worst, but they were there long before he was and they’ll be there long after.’
Since the campaign debuted on Kickstarter on 11 August, it has surpassed its initial funding goal of $150,000. As proposed, four billboards will be placed in each state along busy highways and downtown centres in October and November to draw the most eyeballs. Should it reach its extended goal of $250,000, the campaign will be expanded to include the states of North Carolina and Arizona.
‘One of the most important things to do, when you’re doing this kind of work, is you ask people who are [already] doing this kind of work to just give you what they’re doing,’ says Weems of the artists she recruited for the line-up. ‘These are people who care about the political process and are engaged in [it]. They’re already there, they’re already out front.’
She continues, ‘The billboard campaign is one of the ways that we can be in the public eye consistently. [It’s a way of] using public space in order to have a public discourse and dialogue about the issues that matter.’
The works that make up the billboard designs are a mix of old and new. Weems’ own piece – a piece of sky encouraging viewers to remember to dream – stems from another project she developed 10 years ago, while Hank Willis Thomas’ piece, which features ‘Enough’ spelled out repeatedly in different typefaces, was made especially for the campaign.
The billboard campaign will be further supported by picket signs, town hall banners and digital ads to amplify its message as broadly as possible. As added incentive to contribute, campaign donors will receive rewards (as part of Kickstarter’s crowdfunding structure) including face masks printed with the campaign logo, tote bags designed by Weems, yard signs featuring Kim’s art piece, as well as posters from Shepard Fairey and limited edition prints from Ruscha and Serra, amongst others.
‘Any time art is used anywhere, it elevates the conversation,’ Weems concludes. This campaign ‘elevates not only conversation, but it elevates awareness because it’s so outside the norm. Normally billboards are trying to sell us a commodity, so when you see something beautiful, different and out of context, you’re drawn to it and want to understand it. You engage with it more emotionally and critically than if it were just trying to sell you whatever it’s advertising. That’s its power and strength.’ §