The worldwide #J20 Art Strike took place on Friday Jan. 20 as one of the many ways in which people reacted to and resisted President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The art strike—which may initially seem counterproductive considering the ways in which art can be used as a social and political platform—was a call to museums, theaters, concert halls, galleries, studios, art schools and non-profits to close their doors on Inauguration Day.
Participants in the strike were hoping to send a clear message: things will not continue as usual in President Trump’s America—there will be resistance from artists who are against the types of behaviors that, as President, Trump is attempting to normalize.
This is a reaction against what the organization’s website describes as “Trumpism—a toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism and oligarchic rule.” The authors of the website explain that Trumpism is “an invitation to motivate these activities anew, to reimagine these spaces as places where resistant forms of thinking, seeing, feeling and acting can be produced.”
Around 100 artists signed the call, along with many commercial galleries who shut down in solidarity. Many museums offered free admission and/or special programs while Trump was sworn in, including the New Museum in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum.
Additionally, the organization explains that this act of non-compliance was only the beginning. While this was just a day-long strike, its message and spirit is meant to last the entirety of Trump’s term; and thereby, it was not one symbol, but the first of many to come from the art world.
Although the strike was not necessarily to fight against the actual inauguration of Trump, it did strive to send the message that his behavior and presidential actions will be watched closely and taken in stride— not overlooked.
The strike was not just a message to Trump and his administration, but also to other artists as well. In an effort to redirect artistic efforts towards social and political discourse, the strike encouraged artists around the country to reflect on how the creation and the display of artistic works can influence and inform society.
Just as the numerous women’s marches—from Seneca Falls, New York to London, England—united women and men in cities all across the world, art can also be used to unite people behind a common cause. This was, and continues to be, the goal of the #J20 Art Strike organizers—to remind and encourage artists of all mediums to use their art as a mirror.
As we’ve recently seen, popular and respected artists—such as actress Meryl Streep in her 2017 Golden Globe acceptance speech—receive a strong public response when they use their voice to comment on the political climate or certain social issues. Artistic expression is an effective way in which individuals are able to express their thoughts and opinions.
The #J20 Art Strike demonstrates that art is a power not to be underestimated, but revered.