The Power of Political Art in Rural Oregon


  August 31st, 2018   Dear ROPnet,  

As rural Oregonians rise up around the state to demand an end to the detention and deportation of their family members, friends and neighbors, the combined creativity and power present in the signs, posters, t-shirts and other artwork brings beauty and clarity to our messages.  

Incorporating political art into our actions can amplify our organizing. At ROP’s annual caucus in May, Brian Heath, a local political artist who created the image to the left, brought stencils and paints so that caucus-goers could create their own posters, banners, and t-shirts and carry home images with our message of rural resistance. At the statewide NORCOR solidarity action in May, an action in front of the jail where folks are being inhumanely detained by ICE, our art provided powerful visuals to enhance our message. These images were all the more important when people detained by ICE were driven to the institution in a bus, and they were able to see the signs of resistance and support as they were being dropped off at NORCOR. They recognized us for our t-shirts and signs and called later from inside NORCOR to tell us!    Every year, leaders in Benton County host the Solidarity Fair, where local groups and community members come together

to share about their justice work and celebrate through music, food and political theater. Last year, the fair was disrupted by white nationalists, who also chalked xenophobic and racist messages around the park prior to the start of the fair. This year, local leaders showed up early and chalked beautiful images and messages of love and solidarity on the sidewalks surrounding the park, setting the tone as people arrived and making it clear they were entering a space where all were welcome! Families and community members walked around the park admiring each other’s face paint, sharing food and organizing strategies and pointing out the images chalked onto the sidewalks and their significance as symbols of a community by and for each of us.

In preparation for the vigil at Sheridan held on June 18, 2018, images like the one shown to the right were created to enhance the message of UNIDOS Bridging Communities and other local vigil organizers: KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER. Young organizers from counties across Oregon also joined in making their own posters and signs with images and messages of love and keeping families together.

Help us build our library of rural political art! Have you seen art help heal and empower your local community? We want to know what political art is looking like in your community. Send us pictures and stories we can share through the network, and let us know if you have a barn for Brian to paint, as he is seeking a larger canvass for some rural resistance art. Solidarity can live on any canvas! 

Join us from September 30th to October 6th, for a 7-day journey to demand an end to detention and deportation. We will walk from Sheridan to NORCOR to demand the release of all migrants from incarceration, to end the ICE contact at FCI Sheridan, and to end the ICE contract at NORCOR. This is a great opportunity to create signs, t-shirts and banners and bring the power of art to our rural journey for immigrant justice!

We asked Brian to share some of his tips, tricks and shopping advice with us to fuel your creative solidarity. Check them out below! 


Caroline and the ROP Team

Projects You Can Do At Home:

  • Signs and banners
  • T-shirts
  • Paint your Barn or Roof
  • Collages
  • Body Art

Content Tips:

  • Images have a strong impact. Words help, but the fewer words the more effective your message
  • Focus on images and logos to represent your ideas
  • You don’t have to speak the same language to understand messages in art
  • Choose positive images and phrases to connect with your audience

Tips for Gathering Supplies:

  • Dollar stores are handy for affordable tag board and markers
  • Hardware stores are the next most affordable stop
  • Cut your tag board in half for two signs. They are easier to carry, too!
  • If you get tagboard that is slick on one side, paint on the other side where it’s more absorbent
  • Avoid water-based markers, which won’t hold up in rainy weather
  • Spray with clear coat (which is inexpensive at art stores) to withstand through weather
  • Use strong tag board to withstand painting
  • Acrylic paint is better and stronger than tempra paint
  • You can use a window as a light table for tracing images
  • Silhouettes make simple, bold images that non-artists can recreate
  • Bedsheets can be painted and turned into banners and are easy to find at second hand stores


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