Beyond the controversial politics and frustrated protesters, there has been a sense of art present at Capitol Square while Wisconsin protesting makes history. Project Lodge, a unique art gallery on East Johnson, has taken the time to showcase the artistic value of these signs in their temporary exhibit, “SolidARTity,” and project the voices of the citizens of Wisconsin.
The idea for the exhibit was offered by UW-Madison art history Ph.D. candidate, Sarah Stolte, who also interns at Project Lodge. Stolte is currently studying multiculturalism in museum exhibition and, after a discussion of a protest art show in class, she pitched the idea to the Project Lodge.
“Everyone has all this anger, but instead of being angry, they’re articulating this energy in positive ways,” Stolte said.
After hearing Stolte’s suggestion, gallery coordinator Sonia Kubica enthusiastically agreed to feature the art for numerous reasons.
“We just felt it was so beautiful, and so powerful, and it was so current… All the work, all the creativity, all the ways that people found to have a voice, I said absolutely, let’s do it,” Kubica said.
Betsy Curry provided gallery space, and signs were either donated or collected off the street. The coordinators also called for artists to donate art that was made in response to the government’s actions.
Due to their relation to current events, the protest signs are different from what the gallery normally features. However, the overall response has been very positive.
“I have not heard anything negative yet… People are very enthralled with the idea… It just proves that if you work together, put several minds together, in a positive way, you are going to make good things happen,” Stolte said.
In addition to the positive response, Stolte feels it has brought a different dimension to the protest. Stolte explained how a group of musicians was organizing a benefit concert for the Wisconsin union protests, and the group asked if the show could be a part of their concert.
“There is a realization that the arts are very important, and we need to collaborate and put our voices out there and show the world how important music and visual art and creation really are… The show is becoming a part of the protest,” Stolte said.
Posters were displayed across the walls throughout the gallery, ranging from pieces of cardboard with marker to posters with graphic images, many of the signs relying on puns and irony. In a statement to the gallery, artist Mary Jane Connor described how meaningful it was to have her voice heard.
“I am honored to be a part of this exhibition. This space provides a contemporary view of history in the making and recalls Wisconsin’s historically active voice,” Connor said.
Graphic artist Michael Martin has also been determined to have his voice heard, creating one poster for each day of the protest. Some were showcased at the Project Lodge, including “The King’s Speech” movie poster with Gov. Scott Walker’s head replacing Colin Firth’s.
“I have no desire to stand in the way of the images getting shared, and I also have no desire to sell or make money from them. I just want to get my messages out, on a daily basis, and do my damnedest to ‘kill the bill,'” Martin said.
As for the future of the show, Kubica explained their hope that the show would travel, particularly to other areas of the country where protests are occurring. In the end, the work will be preserved at the State Historical Museum.
While the show remains, Stolte and the coordinators hope to get an important message across.
“We’re trying to say, the arts always get cut first…the human spirit’s desire to create is something that just simply can’t be cut.”