Art News

Artist-Made Billboards Popping Up Nationwide Aim to Get Out the Vote

An Orange Barrel Media installation in Denver.
An Orange Barrel Media installation in Denver. Orange Barrel Media
If you've been around the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Colorado Convention Center, the Westin Hotel or the Denver Pavilions recently, you may have seen big, bright rainbow screens that say "POWER FULL BECAUSE THEY'RE DIFFERENT." This art installation is courtesy of Orange Barrel Media, an Ohio-based company that's been working with the Denver Theatre District, which uses downtown billboards to fund innovative arts projects, since 2009.

"Through that partnership, we have funded commissions such as the projection mapping project that illuminates the 16th Street Mall and [Konstantin Dimopoulos's] Blue Trees art installation, which represents global deforestation and the importance of trees to people and their environment," says Orange Barrel Media CEO Pete Scantland.

Now, teaming up with artists Jenny Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, Jeffrey Gibson and Tomashi Jackson, the company created Art for Action to help get out the vote. This nationwide project includes 350 screens in sixteen cities that bring voter-registration resources right to the people. The project is expected to reach an audience of 106.7 million people.

Holzer initiated the project, wanting to develop digital signage to spread information about voting. Some installments are touch-screen kiosks offering information about voting deadlines in each state and, through a QR code, giving people the chance to register.

Denver has both large-scale digital signage and kiosks located along the 16th Street Mall.

click to enlarge Touch-screen kiosk in Columbus, Ohio. - ORANGE BARREL MEDIA
Touch-screen kiosk in Columbus, Ohio.
Orange Barrel Media
The kiosks are cleaned every day. Pandemic-friendly QR codes make it so people can access the information without having to touch the screens.

The digital billboards do more than provide information; they promote a sense of urgency about the upcoming election, with a clock that counts down the days, hours and minutes left to vote.

"This year is a pivotal election in the United States, and we wanted to contribute our platform to help the
push for voter engagement across the country," Scantland said.

This isn't the first politically minded art in Denver courtesy of Orange Barrel. Over the summer, the company collaborated with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver on artist Nari Ward's "Lazarus Beacon," a projection addressing racial injustice. The words "Tired, poor, huddled, yearning, wretched, refuse, homeless, tempest, tost" were mapped onto the Daniels & Fisher Clocktower on the 16th Street Mall.

On the Art for Action billboards, animations state: "You can hope, or you can vote" and "You can be passive, or you can take action." The hope is that those words inspire people to register, fill out their ballots and drop them off. (For more information on voting in Colorado and how to register, even on election day, go to the Secretary of State's Office website.)

"We were excited to share Art for Action, because it not only includes impactful artworks by a group of incredible artists, but it serves as a direct call to action with ways for viewers to find voter resources, deadlines and information," Scantland says. "We wanted to find a way to spread an important message and simultaneously offer a way [for people] to act upon that information."

The media installations will be up through November 3.
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