In a virtual event for the Debate 2020 Programming, Watkins College of Art at Belmont presented a gallery talk and tour of Designing A Democracy, an exhibit boasting a survey of graphic designs as experienced through political posters throughout history. Collector and local politician Ronnie Steine, along with exhibit co-curators Belmont University Professor of Graphic Design Dan Johnson and Director of Galleries Katie Mitchell, guided students through a tour of the gallery, sharing insights on each piece along the way.
The political posters in this gallery represent an emerging dynamic in mass media culture. They act as a mirror of culture to reinforce culture and commonality among politicians and Americans.
In a look at the posters through the years, it is apparent how art is defined by available technology of the time. From hand painted pieces, now collected, to the advanced pieces of today, often widely available for download, these posters are intentionally designed to connect with Americans.
In one section, posters represent an Age of Modernism in advertising, using simplistic and meaningful designs. Another section of the gallery represents the counter culture of the West Coast music scene and psychedelic culture of its time, using bright colors invoking perceptions of the drug culture and symbolic of its style.
In the McCarthy section, the hosts discussed how the posters represent the impact politics has on artists and in turn, the impact artists have on politics.
Political posters have evolved over time. The political world often draws upon what is happening in pop culture at the time, designing on the cutting edge to lend a candidate more credibility in being “the common man.”
Steine and Johnson closed encouraging the Belmont community to share in the conversation this gallery sparks and to use their voice to vote. The Designing a Democracy exhibition is on display in the Leu Art Gallery in the Lila D. Bunch Library at Belmont University through November 20, 2020.