News & Politics

Robin Bell’s New Project: Anti-Trump Billboards, All Over the US

Robin Bell’s New Project: Anti-Trump Billboards, All Over the US
A Remember What They Did billboard in Detroit. Photograph by Casey Chamberlain/Artists United for Change.

Robin Bell’s projections are familiar to many in Washington, DC: He’s the artist who regularly lights up the Trump Hotel with messages like PAY TRUMP BRIBES HERE and SHITHOLE. During the RNC he projected messages like TRUMP HAS NO PLAN on the hotel and dismaying quotes from administration officials on the former Newseum site.

Bell outside the Trump Hotel during the RNC. Photograph by Evy Mages

Now Bell is helping to take messages like those national. The artist created Remember What They Did with Scott Goodstein, a so-called “punk politico” who worked with Shepard Fairey on the Obama “HOPE” posters, and a Super PAC called Artists United for Change. Working with artists like Rob Sheridan, Swoon, and DC’s Nekisha Durrett (and yes, Fairey), the group is peppering swing-state cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix with dozens of billboards and thousands of posters designed to remind people of the stakes of not voting.

Posters in Detroit. Photograph by Casey Chamberlain/Artists United for Change.

“Hardcore Trump supporters are not going to look at this poster and go, ‘Oh, you know, what, I’m gonna change my whole point of view,” Bell says. Instead, they’re aimed at younger voters who may be motivated by reminders of quotes like the time the President said there were “were very fine people, on both sides” during a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, or the time Senator Lindsey Graham said “I don’t care” about how long migrants might be held in detention centers. The group’s website helps people register to vote, something Bell says he’s quite proud of.

Fairey’s design for Remember What They Did.

In DC, the mobility of Bell’s setup means he can “have an idea in my studio and then be out on the street that night.” Billboard companies have proven to be tougher to crack—some have balked at billboards that show Nazis, he says. Nor is that form of advertising cheap, often running around $12,000 for one billboard for a month.

A Bell projection in Cleveland. Photograph by Stephen Cutri/Artists United for Change.

The artists who take part in Remember What They Did receive an honorarium of about $1,000 and keep the rights to their designs, Bell says, “enough to justify spending some time working on it.” Plus, he notes, it’s pretty cool to see your work tower above your hometown. The weekend before last, he drove to Cleveland before the first presidential debate, where he projected “$750” and floating coffins, prompting the local GOP to say Trump won’t be hindered by “artsy distractions.” After he left, the billboards remained. “My projections, obviously, I love them,” Bell says. “But, you know, I can’t be everywhere.”

 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.

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