The first 100 days of a presidential administration are crucial. It’s a period that sets an administration’s tone for the next four years and an opportunity for both the president and vice president to carry out the policies they touted throughout the campaign trail. With Biden and Harris entering the White House amid a collision of crisis that includes taming the coronavirus pandemic, stabilizing the economy, overhauling climate policy, and working to combat systemic racism, among others, it’s an especially daunting task.
Yet, these initiatives and more are the focus of a new art project designed to engage Philadelphia residents on the policy issues that the new administration could address in the months to come.
100 days, 100 nights
First 100 Days, a project between Mural Arts Philadelphia and street art blogger and curator Conrad Benner, highlights 13 Philadelphia-area artists’ work through graphic posters. Each poster highlights a priority that the artist thinks the Biden/Harris administration should address during the first three months in office and ranges in topics from canceling student debt, increasing the minimum wage, closing immigrant camps, and providing universal healthcare.
For Benner, the idea was born out of the array of Biden/Harris, Black Lives Matter, and other signs that he saw hanging in his neighbors’ windows and throughout many businesses and residents in the city. “As more people worked from home during the pandemic, I noticed that they were using their windows as a quasi-public billboard space to display campaign and protest signs,” Benner said. “People rightfully have a lot to say about our current environment and having their values reflected in governmental policies that will no doubt affect them, so I approached [Mural Arts executive director] Jane Golden about this project.”
Golden was immediately sold on the idea and worked to secure funding. In the meantime, Benner sought to collaborate with artists he’d never worked with before and long admired, like visual artist Brunofsky, illustrator Marisa Velázquez-Rivas, and illustrator and comic book artist Derick Jones.
“Mural Arts [Philadelphia] loves to engage communities through public art,” Golden said. “Given how important [the 2020] election was, we love that we can pay artists to express a variety of viewpoints, and the public can choose what is important to them and put it on display.”
Originally composed of 10 artists, the project expanded to include three additional names after its release. All of the artists featured in the project include Brunofsky, Krista Dedrick-Lai, Jonai Gibson-Selix, Candy Alexandra González, Derick Jones, Natalie Hope McDonald, Donte Neal, Jenny Scott, Marisa Velázquez-Rivas, Kah Yangni, Marian Bailey, Lisa Kelley, and Melita Tirado.
The project was released with much fanfare the weekend following Biden and Harris’s inauguration. Lines snaked around Le Virtu in South Philadelphia for safe, in-person pickup of the posters.
This is personal
For artist and comic book illustrator Derick Jones, an experience waiting in line with his partner and her brother to get a Covid-19 vaccination became the inspiration for his piece. “We stood in a long line that seemed to last for hours, and I began to sketch the people standing in line,” Jones said. “Can you imagine living in a world where we could go to the doctor, and it would not cost an arm or a leg? Or people wouldn’t have to wait for the healthcare that they need?”
Writer and illustrator Natalie Hope McDonald chose to focus her piece on vaccinating the country. Using thick, heavy black lines and bold text to illustrate the growing need for more vaccinations, McDonald drew inspiration from early 20th-century propaganda posters to convey her message. “I wanted to ultimately stir up support for both the vaccine and the desire to be vaccinated in a way that expresses the importance for the whole populace. I studied Latin American and Russian posters, as well as WWII images, borrowing some aesthetics from each of these and creating an energetic, face-forward message about beating Covid together through science,” said McDonald.
Mural Arts and Benner will host free virtual artist panels to discuss the project that also includes Jonathan Tamari, national politics and policy reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, to provide insight into the policy issues’ state and hopefully inspire civic engagement.
While the project has created conversation and energy on these critical policy issues, Benner intends to further drive civic engagement. “It’s my hope that our united voices can continue to push for change at the federal level.”
What, When, Where, and Accessibility
First 100 Days posters are currently available for download and to print until May 31, 2021. In addition to the posters, the public can find a resource page with ways to advocate for these issues on the Mural Arts website, and to attend programming connected to the issues featured in the project. All information, including downloadable posters to print at home, resources, and future pickup opportunities can be found online.
Image Description: A collage of posters with varying art styles and messages. "Cancel student debt," "climate justice," "$15 minimum," "create a bill for $2000," "fight for universal healthcare," "free immigrant families," "vaccinate America," and "reallocate bloated police budgets" are the main messages in the posters.