Ann Morton, a Phoenix-based artist, has mobilized over 2,200 people to help participate in her art project - The Violet Protest.
The Violet Protest is a nationwide public engagement project, employing hand-made textiles as tools to protest against political divisiveness, generating a creative call for national unity. The protest in the form of art seeks to focus on key values like respect for others, citizenship, compromise, and courage. The color violet symbolizes the literal combination of red and blue, familiar symbols of the United States’ differing ideologies.
Thousands of makers and creators from across all 50 US states, DC, and Canada have contributed 8 x 8-inch squares using a variety of textile processes. The squares are all unique but each one uses equal parts red and blue to create their individual messages in support of the core values of the Violet Protest.
The protest supports the value of “country over party and corporate influence,” creates compassion, and spurs creativity.
“I’ve been increasingly concerned about the political division that seems to be preventing our Congress from actually governing. I’ve done many social engagement projects in that past which lead me to create the Violet Protest.”
The project’s goal is to send bundles of between 25- 50 of these individual squares to all 535 members of the 117 US Congress in late 2021 or early 2022. This unique demonstration of protest will voice hope and support for cooperation between lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Ann was a graphic designer for 35 years before heading back to university in her late 50s. At 58, she received her Master of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Fibers and minoring in Socially Engaged Art. She considers herself sort of a newbie, working as an artist and educator only since 2012. She first wrote the manifesto for the Violet Protest in 2017.
Her work won an award from the Phoenix Art Museum in 2019, which offered her an exhibition a year later.
“I knew I wanted to do a public protest project and the pieces came together for this opportunity. Considering it is a protest through art, it is no coincidence that violet is just one letter from violent.”
For the project, Ann reached out to fiber communities and guilds across the country. The project officially launched in January of 2020 but then the world changed.
“In some ways, I think it was a blessing in disguise for this project. I was able to meet through Zoom with people all over the country who wanted to participate.”
While the initial exhibition was scheduled for September 2020, the opening of the project was moved to March 2021. While the project is being shown she spends 2 days a week knitting there on a complementary project which allows her to see visitors and answer questions.
“A national project is really about building a strong framework for the project, within which people can participate. It has to be compelling. People have to have agency to create anything they want inside the parameters of the larger project. That’s why every square is different. However, when all the pieces come together they make a unified statement.”
Ann’s project has expanded to all 50 states through word of mouth. Initially, she sent it to about 500 people on her mailing list from past projects and from her “art alert” list. Before she knew it, the project spread from one person to the next by word of mouth.
“I think people are moved to participate because I have a track record of producing these kinds of projects and following through. They trust I will do what I say I’ll do.”
Trust can go a long way. Over 2,200 people have participated and many of them created multiple squares. Thanks to their participation, Ann has already reached her initial goal of having 25 pieces for each Congressperson. Now she's trying to see if she can send even more.
“Of course, I’ve always done creative work, but being an artist is different, especially at my age. It’s great but it can be challenging.”
To help budding artists of any age overcome fears, Ann has put together some tips.
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To learn more about Ann and the Violet Protest join her GetSetUp Guest Speaking Event on Tuesday, August 17. During this session, she will share how an idea can bloom across the country, how protest or resistance can be positive and uplifting, and how learners can get involved. This event is for anyone who is passionate about making art through sewing, weaving, knitting, felts, or any fiber arts. Anyone who is politically active also will appreciate this discussion on combining politics, community, and art to create impact.
For creators who are interested in participating and making a piece please go to https://www.violetprotest.com/
A special deadline extension has been given for GetSetUp participants to submit squares up until September 15, 2021. To sign up, go to https://www.violetprotest.com/volunteer.html