Art lovers typically visit a gallery or museum to indulge their senses. But when it comes to Vicki Rosenthal, art comes to you. Rather, it walks with a conscience.
Rosenthal, a social worker, has evolved as a creative storyteller and businesswoman. Once painting on stretched canvas, she now paints social justice messages on canvas shoes. She customizes each pair for people who want to don wearable art – each pair costs between $700-$1,000 depending on the intricacy of design.
When I was preparing to host June’s Free Speech Forum in FatVillage, Rosenthal customized my shoes with phrases such as “be nice 2 journalists,” “writer at heart,” and “writing is not a crime.”
All the while, she’s been preparing for this year’s election. The result is Every Voice – Vote 2020, a two-part exhibit in partnership with Broward College running through November.
“The idea came to me sometime in 2018 – I knew that I needed to create awareness in reference to voter suppression in Broward County. Not everyone has it easy. Not everyone can vote early, and these barriers exist in many cases purposefully,” she says. “I put a lot of thought and time into how I was going to approach and accomplish this project.”
The first of the exhibits is on view until March 31 at the Broward College North Campus Library in Coconut Creek. Rosenthal has designed four pairs of ethically manufactured shoes to represent groups who have trouble at the polls: transgender, indigenous groups, immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated.
Joining her is Paulino Celestino Mejia, a non-binary Maya Chort’i artist representing South Florida indigenous groups. “Paulino is feeling like ‘we’re under a system where our land was stolen and here we are voting,’” Vicki says.
Alex Grindle, a transgender artist and an 18-year-old high school senior, is also in the show. He will be voting for the first time in November. His paintings and collages are political – greed drives manipulation.
Also representing the transgender voice is South Florida-based TransSocial, Inc. The non-profit has created palm cards to educate the community on what to do if election officials question their name or gender on their ID cards.
One pair of shoes stands up for the rights of women in the justice system. To inform her design Rosenthal interviewed Tray Johns, a gay black woman who spent nearly nine years in prison for possession of less than $500 in drugs.
“One in every 18 black women will experience incarceration in her lifetime,” says Johns, co-founder of FedFam4life and New Florida Majority’s South Florida criminal justice organizer. For example, Johns and her fellow activists support the Tammy Jackson Act, named for Tammy Jackson, who was forced in April to give birth in solitary confinement, without medical assistance, in a Broward County jail.
“Canvas of Advocacy”
Vicki has literally searched the planet to identify an ethical shoe manufacturer. She recently struck a deal with Australian company Etiko, the first fashion brand in the Southern hemisphere to become fair trade certified. She also sources sustainable paint from Derivan, another Australian company.
“People want to be heard and change is their demand,” wrote freelance journalist and Etiko employee Nicole Lutze for the company’s blog. “Helping to voice those concerns is American advocacy artist, Vicki Rosenthal, who uses Etiko sneakers as her canvas.”
Dates and Places
North Regional / Broward College Library
1100 Coconut Creek Blvd., Building 62, Coconut Creek, FL 33066
- Every Voice – Vote 2020 is on view in the first- and second-floor glass cases until March 31. Phone: 954-201-2600. For hours click here
- February 29: Meet the Artists from 11: 30 am – 12 pm and from 1 pm-1:30 pm as part of the all-day writing workshop Tell Your Story II. It’s Your Write!
- March 23: Join the artists for Suppressed: The Fight to Vote. View Brave New Films’ 38-minute documentary, meet the Every Voice – Vote 2020 artists, and join the group discussion. Doors open at 5:30 pm; event from 6 pm -7.30 pm.
Broward College – Central Campus Library
3501 SW Davie Road, Davie, FL 33314
- April 3 through November. Phone: 954-201-6648.
Connect with the Artists
Alex Grindle Design, AlexGrindleDesign@gmail.com, IG: alexgrindledesign
Paulino Celestino Mejia, Paulino.Mejia.firstname.lastname@example.org, IG: @tepakti_kuyamet
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