By now, talking about the presidential race has become a repetitive and exhaustive exercise for a lot of people. But the Lawrence Arts Center is dedicated to changing that through its exhibition, "Platform." 

"I’m so glad that we are encouraging people to think critically during this election season," said Sarah Bishop, chief communications officer for the center. "Art is a great way to do that. To think smart, think critically, ask questions and really reconsider the status quo."

The exhibition, which began in September and will run through January of next year, includes a variety of paintings, drawings, mixed media sculptures and video presentations that provide commentary on the current political arena in both orthodox and unorthodox ways.

A work curated by Exhibition Program Director Ben Ahlvers for "Platform," for example, is by artist Mark Wagner.

In his body of work, Wagner creates portraits and illustrations that intend to provoke a specific, politically-charged message. But there's a catch.

He uses dollar bills.

"I’ve never seen anything like it," Ahlvers said. "Anybody in the world has some sense of the dollar and where it comes from, but it's also about what it could symbolize to a variety of people."

Artists featured in the exhibition include Penny Mateer, Ericka Walker and University visual arts professors Norman Akers and Michael Krueger, among others.

University art professor and artist Michael Krueger is an inspiration to his students and fans. He discusses how his inspirations have changed over the years as well as his style of art. Krueger said he believes and teaches that change and exploration has characterized his career as an artist. 

Krueger specializes in printmaking and drawing and contributed three artworks that play with the idea of American history as it relates to themes of protest and contestation.

"These drawings of protest signage become a means to address a fading memory of a turbulent past, a greater history beyond the strife of one political event," Krueger said.

While the collection of drawings attempt to cast a political mood on the current landscape, like many of the artworks at the exhibition, they are only meant to spark an interest in those bored with the political rhetoric rather than to lean someone one way or the other.

"I think it is important because art is a free and unabashed form of expression that can express the complexities of the human condition," Krueger said. "In my mind, the exhibition is not about persuading someone to vote one way or another, but rather to engage the public in the ideas of democracy in a way that is not represented in the public sphere."

The center is also currently hosting a series of art talks and film screenings in addition to the exhibition that welcome a bipartisan audience.

Coming up soon for viewing are the film screenings of 1972's "The Candidate" on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. and the new, award-winning documentary on former Congressman Anthony Weiner, "Weiner", on Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.

On Nov. 14, an INSIGHT art talk will be held with artists Normans Akers, Archie Scott Gobber and Krueger as part of "Platform."

"With every exhibition that we do, we’re trying to provide as many opportunities for people to learn more about the subject matter or learn about the artist, the process, the material or whatever else," Ahlvers said.

On election night, the center will also be hosting a free viewing party from 6 to 9 p.m.

Ahlvers said the viewing party is directly connected to the exhibition, as both are meant as a nonpartisan reflection on the journey the country has gone through thus far.

For the evening, every room and exhibition space will be used, with different channels showing results in different locations, Ahlvers said. Special political satire will be placed throughout the center to add to the atmosphere of the night.

"We’ll have some vintage campaign ads — stuff from the 1950s," he said. "Hillary has said 'basket full of deplorables' when referring to Trump supporters so we’ll have a basket full of deplorable snacks."

Refreshments will be available, as well as a cash bar.

“We’re going to need it," Ahlvers said of the bar. "No matter who wins."

— Edited by Christian Hardy

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