Hannah Michelle Bussa
Local artists are using their talents to get out the vote and support candidates they want to see make change in Omaha.
Kamrin Baker, former editor-in-chief at The Gateway and 2020 UNO graduate, has been supporting two local candidates through her work at Less the Agency.
“This year, there are progressive women running for every City Council seat, and we have a real shot at realizing Omaha’s potential,” she said.
Johnny Redd, another 2020 UNO graduate and co-founder of Strong Worded Letters (@stronglywordedomaha), has also been involved in a local campaign through their work. They believe that candidates should embody their campaign values, even when working with local artists.
“When smaller teams and independent artists are working on a hyper-local campaign, it shows in the work they produce,” Redd said.
Local artist Julia Buskirk echoed that belief. She has worked with Naomi Hattaway’s city council campaign.
“I appreciate how her campaign has centered itself around local artists and small businesses, like myself with Designs by J,” she said. “This really speaks to Naomi’s community building and real steps towards showing she cares and acts on her intentions.”
Buskirk said that she hopes her art helps get out the vote for a local election.
“If my art can in any way aid in communicating Naomi’s message through to people, then I feel I’ve contributed to my community,” she said.
Monica Chantal Mondragon, a UNO alumna who teaches a course in the Gerontology Department, is also a photographer using her talents during this election season. She took photos for Kate Gotsdiner’s campaign.
“As a photographer in the community, I believe that helping a local candidate capture a photo that represents who they are as a person, their unique traits, and mannerisms can help the community visually see the nature of the person,” she said.
Ang Bennett, a senior art history major with a minor in journalism at UNO, has been supporting Cammy Watkin’s campaign with their artwork and talents.
“District 3 is a transplant district,” they said. “Many people are registered voters, but they don’t show up to the polls because they aren’t invested in the city or the candidates. Art has become a utilized tool in voter outreach efforts that target apartment dwellers, millennials, Generation Z and those who have relocated for school, career and other opportunities.”
They helped start the Let’s Talk About with Cammy series, where Watkins discusses key platform issues. Bennett said the use of artwork and social media is important for campaigns, especially during the pandemic.
“The digital age has also introduced an entirely new way in which we see candidates run their campaign,” Bennet said. “I have been able to use my art and design to really amp up Cammy’s campaign. She has a vibrant campaign color scheme which definitely gets attention. Coupled with her platforms and values, we have been able to run an active social media and digital campaign, which has been critical during the pandemic.”
Baker also works primarily on social media for campaigns. She has written most of the copy on Naomi Hattaway’s social media campaign account and has also taken most of the photos for her campaign.
“I’m passionate about supporting candidates that make people want to stay in this city, that make local government more accessible, that prioritize equity and thoughtful policy,” Baker said. “Local politics are the real deal. This is where change gets started, this is where we can effectively instill progress in our community to benefit our friends and neighbors.”
Redd emphasized the impact of local politics.
“The city council has a lot of power, as we saw this summer with the police budget and the mask mandates,” they said. “I think it’s important to understand that in many aspects, local politics are about who shows up. If we can vote in a group of city councilors who actually reflect the population, things will improve.”
Buskirk said it is important to get involved in local politics in some way.
“Getting involved in local politics is important for everyone to contribute in any way – big or small,” she said. “I feel the best way I can get involved is through sharing my art. Through art, or even through my time, I feel I can help support a candidate I believe would build a better Omaha for all.”
Mondragon said she did not always know much about local politics. She wants to be aware of who is leading and that they are leading for the people and for positive change.
“If you ask many local community residents, many of them probably can’t identify a local leader,” she said. “That was me, too. So, I try to keep up here and there with who and what is managing the city of Omaha.”
Bennett said that local elections are key in creating a sustainable city.
“The presidential election can’t be the only place that we show up,” they said. “Politics at the local level are where immediate needs get met for the people in our city and state. In order to push progress into the national level, we have to elect candidates ‘on the ground’ essentially who value equity, community and sustainability, platforms Cammy’s campaign stands on.”
Bennett asked, “How are we ensuring access to affordable, quality housing, eliminating food deserts, providing adequate public transportation to residents – how are we sustaining Omaha?”
For early voters, ballots must be requested by March 26 for the Primary Election and April 30 for the General Election. The Primary Election is on April 6, and the General Election is on May 11.
Voters must be registered by March 19. Check voter registration or register to vote here.