Perhaps you’re voting by mail this year. Millions of Americans are doing so, more than ever before, and many of them for the first time. What these voters need is I VOTED stickers. And so New York, in partnership with I am a voter., asked 48 artists to design them. The cover of the October 26 issue of the magazine will be converted to a sticker sheet, featuring contributions from Shepard Fairey, KAWS, Barbara Kruger, David Hammons, Laurie Simmons, Amy Sherald, Baron Von Fancy, Marilyn Minter, Lorna Simpson, Tawny Chatmon, Rico Gatson, Zipeng Zhu, Adam Pendleton, Adam J. Kurtz, Zaria Forman, and many more. There will be four different covers, each with 12 stickers — enough that each reader can wear a different one daily, from publication through to Election Day.
In addition to the magazine covers, 500,000 more stickers will be distributed for free at bookstores and museums across the country, and retail stores including Crate and Barrel and CB2 (both November 3 only), who, along with Warby Parker and EHE Health, are supporting the project’s printing cost. The sheets will also be distributed by nonprofit organizations including the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and the Campus Vote Project, as well as official polling sites such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
Here, descriptions from several of the artists who participated:
• Derrick Adams: I wanted to take the opportunity to mark this pivotal moment in history to highlight American civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin (1912–1987). Rustin fought tirelessly for equality throughout his life and organized Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery bus boycotts and the March on Washington. I’m calling for us to emulate his energy to continue the fight for justice and equality.
• Christine Sun Kim: In American Sign Language (ASL), we sign “finish” as a way to conjugate the past tense. When you sign “eat finish,” that means “ate” in English, “write finish” means “wrote,” and so on. For the sticker design, I used “vote finish” as my version of the English “I voted” stickers. By connecting the words together, the sticker also visually resembles how you would sign “vote” in ASL.
• Amy Sherald: In my lifetime I’ve experienced my share of prejudice and racism. My mother named me Amy with the hope that I would avoid the inescapable and unavoidable fact of race in this country. Time and time again I’ve heard people reference our forefathers in speeches while intentionally omitting acknowledgement of the bodies that were forced into labor in the making of this great country. The pain this causes is like that of a loved one who has never acknowledged their abusive behavior in a relationship, and yet the recipient of that abuse is expected to heal and move on.
Growing up in the South, I viewed the American flag as belonging to a people whose patriotism was solely reserved for whites. This idea of Americaness left me ambivalent about where I stood. The Obama presidency encouraged and inspired me to reconsider that notion. As I reflect on the many generations that came before me, I would be derelict if I did not take ownership of the one thing that they died for. I want to acknowledge their undeniable and indispensable presence in our history and in the making of this great country. This painting is about that reclamation. My American flag represents a “whole” country. A flag that conjures hope, empathy, resilience, unity, freedom, and justice. It does not disregard our past sins but stands at attention to America’s original sin and, in doing so, forges a path forward to a more perfect union.
• Hank Willis Thomas: Voting this year can feel extremely daunting for so many who are trying their best to be civically engaged but may feel apathetic or unmotivated, but in the Wide Awakes we understand the importance of collective CIVIC JOY in which we can bring celebration and even fun into voting, talking about voting, and encouraging others to vote. We’re in a moment in which people need to awaken to their own power and potential so we can alter the course of this country, and by voting, we are activating that and going into November 3rd and beyond together with our eyes open.
• KAWS: I VOTED. It’s our democratic freedom and right regardless of the powers that attempt to take that away and silence us. 2020 has been full of tragedy and loss. We need to push for change and hold onto hope especially when the system works against us. Vote.
• Hiba Schahbaz: I painted this memorial portrait of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a black trans woman, after her murder in June 2020. This was shortly after the murder of George Floyd, whose portrait was the first to be memorialized. Each of these paintings is the portrait of a person whose life was taken too soon. I hope that I am creating a healing space for their names to be remembered. Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter.
• Shepard Fairey: Our votes determine the policies that impact our lives directly and shape our society. For this sticker, I created a ballot-box speaker because our votes amplify our voices. Our votes broadcast what we believe in, and robust voter turnout builds a more truly representative democracy.
The magazine hits newsstands on Monday, October 26, and is available for preorder today. Wear and share the stickers every day through November 3, learn more about where to find them near you, and tag us @nymag and @iamavoter.