Vote artwork for designed by CCA faculty member Michael Wertz, assistant chair of the Illustration program.

Getting out the vote with CCA’s creative activists

The Creative Citizens in Action initiative is helping the CCA community engage in creative activism to promote the vote during one of the most challenging election seasons in recent history.

This November 3, nearly 30% of all CCA students are eligible for the first time to vote in a U.S. presidential election. They’re joined by millions of newly eligible voters all around the country who are gearing up to cast their first-ever ballots this fall. Voter turnout for people ages 18 to 29 has reached record lows in recent years, though, making it more important than ever for young people to connect with their family and friends to make a plan to vote.

For U.S. citizens, voting is an important civic right, and at CCA, civic engagement is a core component of our educational mission. Inspired by this mission, and in collaboration with alum Hank Willis Thomas (MFA Photography, MA Visual Criticism 2003) and For Freedoms, Creative Citizens in Action at CCA (CCA@CCA) was conceived in fall 2018. CCA@CCA is a collegewide initiative aimed at cultivating creative activism and democratic engagement through public programs, exhibitions, and curriculum connections.

CCA’s San Francisco campus had already served as a polling location in the March 2018 primary election, and the new CCA@CCA initiative leveled up the college’s commitment toward voter engagement with campus-based voter registration drives, “get out and vote” events, and support for student groups focused on voter outreach gearing up for the 2018 mid-term election.

In the two years since, thanks to enthusiastic support from students, faculty, and staff, CCA@CCA has continued to expand beyond its emphasis on voter registration and engagement into an increasing number of “Creative Citizen” courses, a rich schedule of public programs, virtual brunches, and town halls, as well as a collegewide artwork campaign.

The college is further breaking down barriers to student voting by working toward an official Voter Friendly Campus designation. This year, with the COVID–19 pandemic, increased mail-in voting (and heightened anxiety around the U.S. Postal Service), helping to lower those barriers for CCA students and the entire community is especially important.

“Protesting in the streets to demand change is direct action. Highlighting social issues in your art practice shines a light on what needs to get fixed. But a crucial form of creative activism is exercising your constitutional right to vote. You are literally voting for the people who will represent you in government to bring about the change you seek.”

— Connie Jeung-Mills

CCA@CCA founding member

Ready to get involved? Here’s how:

Students register to vote at Chimerapalooza

Connie Jeung-Mills helps students register to vote at Chimerapalooza in 2018.

Register to vote (and make your voting plan)

Marketing and Communications Project Manager Connie Jeung-Mills, one of the founding members of CCA@CCA, notes that when it comes to your rights as an American citizen, there’s no equivalent to the right to vote. “Protesting in the streets to demand change is direct action. Highlighting social issues in your art practice shines a light on what needs to get fixed,” she says. “But a crucial form of creative activism is exercising your constitutional right to vote. You are literally voting for the people who will represent you in government to bring about the change you seek.”

Making sure you’re registered to vote is a crucial first step in setting yourself up for Election Day on November 3. Many people are surprised to find out that the process of registering to vote and the deadline to do so vary from state to state, so the steps may be different for different people.

Once you’re registered, it’s important to know how you plan to vote, especially this year as the U.S. grapples with the COVID–19 pandemic. Understand your options: Are you going to the polls on election day? Will you vote in person early? Or will you vote by mail? If you’re going to mail in your ballot, have you requested one? Figuring out a voting plan that’s right for you will set you up for success.

CCA@CCA 2020 Artwork Campaign

The CCA @CCA Artwork Campaign poster designed by faculty members Jon Sueda and Christopher Hamamoto.

Registered? Adopt your own voting group

If you’re already registered to vote—or if you’re not eligible to vote but you want to get involved—find a group of friends or family and talk to them to make sure they’re registered, have a voting plan, and know what’s on their ballots this fall. You can make voting a family activity by going together to the polls on November 3, or use the day as an opportunity to connect with your friends and host a virtual watch party as the results come in. (Though, it’s important to keep in mind that election night might not end in definitive results this year. Because of the COVID–19 pandemic, an increase in mail-in voting, and complications with the U.S. Postal Service, instant results are unlikely.)

Participate in CCA@CCA’s call for art

We recognize that many members of our community are not eligible to vote in U.S. elections, but everyone in the CCA community—students, alumni, faculty, and staff—is eligible to submit artwork and poster designs to the CCA@CCA Artwork Campaign, aimed at fostering a dialogue related to civic engagement and democratic participation in the lead-up to election day in November. Submissions will be showcased on the Creative Citizens in Action website, and some artwork will be printed and displayed in public-facing locations.

Take part in CCA@CCA events

This fall, The Deborah and Kenneth Novack Creative Citizens Series includes a collection of fall programs, town halls, and virtual brunches connected to democratic engagement, voting registration, and creative citizenship. On September 23, Assistant Professor of Printmedia Sam Vernon moderates CCA@CCA Hosts Virtual Brunch: A Conversation on Art in Times of Social Distance. The event features a conversation with Bay Area–based artists, arts administrators, and activists who have had significant success in transitioning their programs for social distancing.

On Thursday, October 15, CCA@CCA presents What is Your Voting Story?, a live, student-led conversation organized by Associate Professor of Photography Aspen Mays (one of this year’s CCA@CCA Micro Grant recipients) and hosted and streamed by SF Camerawork. The series will include additional programs, town halls, virtual brunches, and more events to be announced throughout the fall.

—Taryn Lott