Common Cause announces seven winners from around the country in its 2021 Artivism Contest.
- Ifeoluwatobi “Tobi” Onasanya, 16, of Clemmons, NC won First Place in the 14-to-17 year-old age category
- Jessica Hernandez-Beltran, 21, of Mecca, CA won First Place in the in the 18-to-23 year-old age category
- Camila Tapia-Guilliams, 24, of Washington, DC won First Place in the 25-to-28 year-old age category
- Jacob Wiant, 21, of Bedford, TX won Second Place in the 18-to-23 year-old age category
- Jennifer Frederick, 25, of Baltimore, MD won Second Place in the 25-to-28 year-old age category
- Mithsuca Berry, 21, of Cambridge, MA won Third Place in the 18-to-23 year-old age category
- Selorm Tettevi, 28, of Fairfield, OH won Third Place in the 25-to-28 year-old age category with an entry about “Media Reform”
The competition was designed by the Common Cause Student Action Alliance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Common Cause and the passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. In the organization’s first-ever virtual competition bridging art with activism, youth nationwide were invited to submit art that expressed their perspectives on key democracy issues.
“Our democracy is strongest when everyone has a voice, regardless of age, zip code, or income,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “The 2021 Artivism winners represent the creativity of the next generation that’s working to build a more vibrant and inclusive democracy. Common Cause will continue working with youth advocates to champion the changes needed to ensure young people can have a say in the decisions impacting their futures.”
The Artivism Contest invited youth ages 14-28 to raise their voices on any set of nine democracy issues, including access to voting, campaign finance reform, fighting against gerrymandering, and more. Contest winners’ art will be featured in the Common Cause Shop on select apparel and merchandise. Winners also receive cash prizes, with $1,500 for first place, $800 for second place, and $600 for third place. Submissions were due September 30 and voting, open to all, took place every day from October 1 through November 2.
“We thank everyone who participated for bringing their unique perspectives and creativity to the 2021 Artivism Contest,” said Alyssa Canty, director of youth programs at Common Cause. “We look forward to working with the winners to showcase their art and help inspire more youth to make their voices heard for a democracy that is inclusive of every voice.”
Onasanya’s entry was in the “Free Speech & Freedom to Protest” group. “I chose this issue area because during the past year freedom of speech and protest has been challenged as more and more people stand up to face inequality (especially surrounding race),” Onasanya said. “My artwork represents those who feel unheard in their efforts to speak out. I hope my work will convey a feeling of passion and almost anger, like the feeling of screaming without being heard.”
Hernandez-Beltran’s entry was in the “Access to Voting” group. “I chose to draw about access of voting because it helps the people who can vote have access to voicing who are their representatives, voice the propositions, as well as help the community. Access to voting helps people exercise their democracy in on issues that impact their community, family, people, and oneself. Our vote is our voice,” Hernandez-Beltran said. “I hope my art will convey the impact that access to voting creates in all communities. Voting is a voice that should not be silenced just like someone who gets the microphone and says something or sings. It is a right that is necessary to emit for the future of the community, of many generations, of representation, of looking into the issues that affect everyday life, and oneself.”
Tapia-Guilliams’ entry was in the “Criminal Justice Reform & Mass Incarceration” group. “While the media has shifted attention away from the Black Lives Matter movement, the problems that incited the protests are still there, unaddressed by our government. Namely, the systemic racism in our injustice system means that no matter who you are, if you are black, you are in danger of police brutality and harsher punitive sentences than white people,” Tapia-Guilliams said. “If we do not approach criminal justice as a matter of racial justice, then we will not be able to build new structures of transformative justice that uplift true democracy, accountability, and equality.”
Wiant’s entry was in the “Free Speech & Freedom to Protest” group. ““My piece represents the ongoing struggle for equal rights for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. As a gay man and an artist, it is my responsibility to protest through art and design. One vote can influence countless people” Wiant said. “This piece exemplifies the impact of my singular vote for the LGBTQ+ community in the process of assuring marriage equality, queer education, and overall safety for other members of my community. This piece communicates a sense of solidarity to other members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who suffer in silence. Additionally, the work will place some hope in the democratic process in order to build a better future for our community.”
Frederick’s entry was in the “Free Speech & Freedom to Protest” group. “I chose this issue area because we have seen mass protests since the pandemic started, many of which still appear even under the new administration. This is especially true in the light of the ongoing fight for racial justice and reproductive justice,” Frederick said. “My piece represents protesting during a pandemic and how that is integral to viewing these protests now that we have lost hundreds of thousands of people in this country alone and still have to fight for our rights and our neighbors rights every day. I hope people will take away from it that people will push for change no matter the circumstances.”
Berry’s entry was in the “Free Speech & Freedom to Protest” group. “My work of art is a fight for visibility. There are so many cycles of silencing that happens in our country – and it’s keeping us from true liberation. Safety should not be something we should need to fight for. This pandemic timeline has exposed so much that is in need of healing and justice. The moment to rest brought us back into our bodies, to process what is keeping us from peace. Marginalized communities are those impacted by that the most. If we are truly in a country that encourages the pursuit of happiness – why are there so many systems in placed meant to make that impossible,” Berry said. “My use of illustration in this is to catch the eye visually – but make this conversation accessible. I want to encourage banding together as it amplifies our collective needs. We are trying to usher in a new future and that is strengthened by creating space for one another.”
Tettevi’s entry was in the “Media Reform” group. “I believe the media wrongly represent adults, specifically black adults, creating a gap in the next generation’s view of growth,” Tettevi said. “My work of art represents the beginning (genesis), roots and culture. I hope to convey, finding yourself in any of the old stories that constructed the foundations/structure of the world as we know it today. As well as the duality in all things.”
To see the 2021 Artivism Contest Winners and their artwork, click here.
To shop apparel and merchandise featuring the 2021 Artivism Contest Winners, click here.
Read this release online here.