CGP, Golden Artist Planning
Art Exhibit Exploring Voting Rights
By SOPHIA HALL
COOPERTOWN – As this election cycle ends, it has become clearer that the fight for the right to vote did not end with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Claims of fraud, polling place closures and gerrymandering are rampant. Access to voting continues to depend on who we are, how we look and where we live. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v Holder that it was no longer necessary for states and local governments with a history of voter suppression to submit changes in their election laws for review; other outstanding Supreme Court cases threaten to erode voting rights even further. While New York itself has recently passed laws to protect the right to vote, de facto barriers, growing political animosity, and a feeling that one’s vote will not count continue to threaten voting in the state, clearly evidenced by the drop in voter turnout in this recent election cycle.
When confronted by the truth that is the vulnerability of the vote, particularly for people who have not had the ability to vote in the past, Mark Golden and Dr. Gretchen Sorin came together with an idea—to curate an art exhibition exploring voting rights within the United States, with a particular focus on the experience of voting while Black. The exhibition, titled “Our Votes, Our Stories,” is a collaboration between SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program and Golden Artist Colors. CGP is one of the oldest museum studies graduate programs in the United States, and its students are responsible for the curation, fundraising, and marketing of the exhibition.
“Our Votes, Our Stories” will feature work from at least eight Black artists working in a variety of mediums with one common theme—the importance of voter equality to the strength and health of democracy. Confirmed artists include Brianna Harlan, Lorie Novak, Sandra Charles, Greta Chapin-McGill, Harper Bella, Vitus Shell, Taylor Sanders and Carla Rae Johnson. Many of these artists know the generational importance of the right to vote, carrying with them personal stories of parents, grandparents, and other family members fighting for that right.
“When facing a clear and present danger to our democracy, to do nothing would suggest indifference, or worse. Our right to vote is the most precious tool we have, the second is our voice. If we can’t count on our vote, we need to raise our collective voices,” said Mark Golden, chief executive officer and co-founder of Golden Artist Colors. “Artists have always provided the most articulate voice to help us see what we often don’t want to see. This exhibition, especially at this time, will be, in some measure, a clarion call to help us protect the ballot.”
Project Director Jimmy Nunn Jr., a CGP alum, commented, “The past decade has been a turbulent and often terrifying time for Americans, specifically African Americans, as it relates to the stability of our democracy and the security of our right to vote. As a young Black man growing up in Selma, Alabama, I heard many first-hand stories about the sacrifices made for the hard-won liberties you and I have today from people who were front and center during the civil rights movement.
“The artists who have created work for this exhibition were chosen because they know that we still need to fight to protect those liberties and have decided to use their talents, their voice, to advocate for equality and justice,” Nunn said.
The exhibition will open next year on October 13 at Golden Artist Colors’ Sam and Adele Golden Gallery in New Berlin, with the hope that it will travel to other institutions throughout 2023 and 2024. This exhibition comes at an important time, as we reach a critical tipping point in our democracy; the protection of the vote for every American is essential to the strength and fundamental integrity of our democracy.
“It simply isn’t enough to make statements on our websites declaring ‘equity, diversity and inclusion.’ This show, which Golden Artist Colors is helping to sponsor, is about using our resources to amplify the voices of artists and their passion to make clear the barriers that continue to exist at this crucial time in our Democracy,” Golden said. “It is absolutely ambitious, yet to do nothing is to simply accept the injustices as they currently exist.”
Art has the power to spur dialogue and inspire action; the goal of this exhibition is to remind Americans of the relentless struggle for voting rights and the need, in a democracy, to be vigilant watchdogs of civil rights.
“With this exhibition, we just want to join the conversation, keep people talking, and encourage Americans to use their voices—to vote,” Nunn added.