Social Justice on Display: Protest Art at the Democratic Convention

Gun violence, police abuse, and feminism loom large in pop-up art exhibit at DNC



The threats of gun violence, police abuse, and a rollback of reproductive-liberty loomed at Rock the Vote's "pop-up art exhibition" during the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The exhibit, "Truth to Power," featured work from Shephard Fairey and dozens of other artists from a 9,000 square-foot space on the edge of downtown Philadelphia. Folks like Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Sen. Cory Booker and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes dropped by for  panels, which included sessions on robots, universal basic income, and the militarization of police. 

I liked the exhibit, even if I didn't agree the messages explicit in some of the works. Some pieces were silly, but some were powerful. None were even slightly critical of Hillary or Bill Clinton, however, nor of the Democratic party—something I didn't think about until I passed a guerrilla art exhibit/protest on the sidewalk near City Hall. It featured paper-mache drones and pictures of children killed by U.S. drone strikes, along with a sign that said "Hillary knows drones kill children, she's all for it." I passed the exhibit on the way to the official DNC "Women's Caucus," where Clinton's record as a champion of children's rights and well-being was touted once again. 


Rock the Vote says the Truth to Power campaign was designed "to engage and mobilize young people in the 2016 election." The works featured at the pop-up exhibition—which was partnered with criminal-justice reform groups like #Cut50, reproductive-health groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and tech startups with names like "Ideapod" and "Wikiburg"— reflected themes that Democrats have hit hard on this week at their convention: gun violence and the need for gun-control regulations; violence at the hands of police; violence against women; the importance of safeguarding reproductive rights; criminal justice reform; women's progress; and how race intersects with all of these things. Check out some of the Truth to Power pieces and some of the Philly street art below.