ACROSS THE COUNTRY TODAY, voters are casting ballots in the mid-term elections. Congressional seats, state offices and local initiatives, including arts funding, are up for consideration. Nationwide, President Obama’s handling of ISIS and Ebola is overshadowing fundamental economic issues, though politics remains mostly local.

The most competitive states where outcomes will determine the balance of the U.S. Senate include Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina, according to the New York Times. Black voter turnout is expected to influence Senate results in Louisiana (likely Republican), North Carolina (likely Democratic) and Georgia, which is closely contested.

 

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BARBARA JONES-HOGU, “UNITE,” 1971 (color screenprint, 1971). | Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

 

Funding for the arts is being weighed in many states, including Rhode Island, Oregon, New Jersey and California. A property tax increase in Los Angeles County would fund improvement for cultural, park and recreational facilities over the next 30 years, the Los Angeles Times reports. Yielding $53 million a year, although the portion going to the arts would be modest compared with other categories, the California African American Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are among the many public institutions that would benefit.

Over the years, artists have produced some of their most compelling work when speaking their minds visually about American democracy, political and social justice issues, and giving a voice to the voiceless. Some Election Day inspiration:

 

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SONYA CLARK, “Black Hair Flag,” 2010 (cloth and thread), was recently on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as a part of the exhibition “Posing Beauty in African American Culture.” | via sonyaclark.com

 

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JACOB LAWRENCE, “Soldiers and Students,” 1962 (opaque watercolor over graphite on wove paper), is currently on view in the “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” exhibition at Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College. | © 2014 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 


LORNA SIMPSON, “Easy to Remember,” 2001 (16 mm film, approximately 2:56 minutes), a video installation featuring 15 separately recorded voices all humming the same tune, was recently on view as part of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Black Box series. More

 

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DAVID HAMMONS, “America the Beautiful,” 1968 (lithograph and body print). | Reproduced from the catalog “Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980”

 

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KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, Detail of “Great America,” 1994 (acrylic and collage on canvas), is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and was on view in its contemporary galleries in 2012 and a part of Marshall’s “In the Tower” exhibition at the museum in 2013. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

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JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, “No Time for Jivin'” from the Containment Series, 1969 (mixed media). | Reproduced from the catalog “Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980”

 

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HANK WILLIS THOMAS, “Black Power,” 2008 is on view through Nov. 30, 2014, as part of “Benchmarks,” a public art exhibition installed on bus benches in Chicago | via Monique Meloche Gallery

 

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FAITH RINGGOLD, Installation view of “Black Light Series #10, Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger,” 1967/69 (oil on canvas), was on view in “Faith Ringgold’s America: Early Works and Story Quilts” at ACA Galleries in New York. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

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GLENN LIGON, Detail of “Double America,” 2012 (neon and paint, edition of 3 and 2 artist’s proofs was on view in Ligon’s “Neon” exhibition at Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine CT