Have feelings about the Trump administration? Make art at ‘Active Voice’

You don’t have to be an artist to be part of this display.

MJ slaby / the incline
MJ Slaby

Tresa Varner pointed to a print in the top right corner of a set of six: It’s a black-and-white image of a baby’s body with President Donald Trump’s head. He’s wearing a crown, and his mouth is open as if he were yelling.

“Everyone loves it,” said Varner, managing director of Artists Image Resource. But she doesn’t know the name of the man who made it. He came to one of the weekly workshops at AIR with a group making signs before their overnight trip to the Women’s March on Washington.

Now, a copy of the print is part of “Active Voice,” an exhibit in response to the “current political climate” at AIR, a non-profit print and imaging space for artists in Deutschtown.

The display opened on Inauguration Day and includes art from anyone, not just professional artists. Varner said people have come from all over the region to add their work. (You can see all of the work at a public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. March 11.)

Varner said AIR typically has a juried show once a year, so “it’s unique for us to have something that’s ‘open call’ like this.” To go along with the show, there are weekly workshops on Thursday evenings at AIR for for non-artists who want to learn and contribute.

The workshops are open to anyone, but have overwhelmingly been people making posters for protests or postcards to send to elected officials, Varner said. Tables are set up in the gallery to write the postcards as soon as they are done.

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mj slaby / the incline

AIR has also been the host for various organizations planning for changes that could come with the Trump administration.

On Thursday, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council held a discussion about federal arts policy and how to take action, including Arts Advocacy Day on March 20 and 21 in D.C. Speakers urged attendees to stay informed and to talk to elected officials and others about the arts, which organizers said is a bipartisan issue.

Today, Varner said 200 people are already registered for a Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania event, during which attendees can make “feminist-themed postcards, t-shirts, and posters” while they learn about advocacy, according to its Facebook event. (It starts at 5 p.m.; Tickets are $5 online and $15 at the door.)

Since Active Voice opened, there have been so many new faces and people who didn’t know about AIR, Varner said. She said it’s been incredible to work with other nonprofits and provide space for essential conversations.

The last workshop was supposed to be next week, but Varner said they will likely keep going due to popularity. And there there’s still space for more art to be displayed, she added.

“It’s something we want to continue,” she said, add that the art “could stay up for four years.”