Early in October,  MTV reached out to Bill Strobel, a local artist, and asked him to create the Philadelphia installation as part of their Vote For Your Life campaign. 

Photo: Dhivya Arasappan

MTV also founded “Vote Early Day,” which was celebrated October 24th and aimed to be “a new national holiday and movement creating awareness for and celebrating Americans’ options to vote early.” Strobel’s mural was one of twenty pop–up art pieces featured across various cities in the United States.  

Photo: Sophia Dai


Photo: Sophia Dai

“I was contacted as an artist. Then, when I was given the platform of criminal justice reform, I had to figure out what that meant for me–or bigger—the city. My mind immediately went to Meek Mill and his issues with probation, arrests, and being in the system since he was a young teenager—how that system was designed to keep him there.” Strobel explains. 

Strobel designed the 400 square–foot mural in his laundry room and spent the 22nd and 23rd chalking the artwork into a section of Love Park. He chose to feature Lady Justice. Strobel depicted her as a Black woman surrounded by an orange glow and a stack of books with reform, criminal, and justice etched on their spines. 

People had tagged Strobel on Instagram in photos of his artwork from high floors in surrounding buildings, which the Philadelphia artist was glad to see.

Photo: Dhivya Arasappan

“It needed to be happy and colorful, something to get people to turn their heads and decide to vote," he said about the mural's vibrance.

Behind the bright spirit of Strobel’s artwork is an ugly truth about mass incarceration and criminal injustice. Black Pennsylvanians represent only 11% of the state population but 37% of the residents in jail and 47% of the residents in prison, according to research done by the Vera Institute of Justice. The ACLU reported that Pennsylvania has the highest incarceration rate in the Northeast and second highest incarceration rate in the country, when including those on probation or parole. 

Photo: Sophia Dai


Photo: Sophia Dai

When asked if art might be a channel for civil discourse, Strobel agreed, saying, “People can be drawn in by the piece, unassumingly, and then be forced to think about bigger issues than the art.”

It seemed that MTV’s mission was successful in using the pop–up art to draw attention to early voting. Workers for Vote For Your Life sat in seats beneath a tent beside the mural, and as they explained their experiences, they helped onlookers navigate the voting process. 

Photo: Dhivya Arasappan


Photo: Dhivya Arasappan

The most eager of the workers to share what he’d observed was Mike, who said, “Most of the questions we got from the community were: Where do I go to vote? I’m not registered, how do I do that?” Mike went on to explain his shock at people’s lack of knowledge about voting procedures, yet he was impressed by how many people were still enthusiastic about casting their ballots. 

Kallie, another worker for the Vote For Your Life campaign, described feelings of frustration surrounding early mail–in ballots and early voting. To help with the spectator's confusion, she, along with coworkers, provided QR codes on pamphlets which led to necessary information. 

Photo: Sophia Dai

A New York couple stood before Strobel’s piece, in awe. When asked what voting meant for them, the man responded, “This year it matters more than ever, obviously.” He continued about how abstaining from voting is doing your country a disservice. He ended with, “If you can’t [vote], your country is doing you a disservice,” which rang especially important ahead of Lady Justice.  

The momentous 2020 presidential election and its timing in an unprecedented global pandemic have made early voting an essential function of democracy. By October 20th, nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians had already cast ballots, a historic proportion compared to the 80,000 in 2016, according to data from TargetSmart.

By November 1st, more than 2.4 million people casted early ballots in Pennsylvania.

Photo: Sophia Dai

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