Pittsburgh DSA created an Unstoppable Voters Project – a series of Center for Artistic Activism supported works that protect the freedom to vote with creativity and innovation.

Pittsburgh DSA

Pittsburgh DSA volunteers mobilized two months of deep canvassing, to hear neighbors’ stories of housing insecurity and help them register to vote and make voting plans. They also deployed a series of installations using brightly-colored camping tents in high-traffic locations to force those with privilege to consider the living conditions of their neighbors. They canvassed at installations to create voting plans, educate locals about tenants right to counsel and tenant unions, and identify and engage supporters. Tents were then donated along with supplies to unhoused neighbors.

Pittsburgh DSA volunteers canvass at an installation featuring tents, banners, t-shirts, and house costumes created by the chapter’s artists. Photo by Eben Parker.

Two Problems

Pittsburgh DSA tackled two problems: unengaged longtime nonvoters needed to be connected with voting (and other) resources and encouraged to vote, and regular voters needed to be reminded to vote and made aware of ways to impact the community beyond voting

Tents and banners set up on an overlook on Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh. The city skyline, famous for selfies and inclusion on “most livable cities” lists, contrasts with the tents, homes for some neighbors that those with privilege would prefer not to think about. Photo by Steph Sorenson.

Many successes

As related by the Pittsburgh DSA:

  • We had great coverage in the paper
  • Our facilitators got an incredible amount of experience, knowledge, and confidence in running a large campaign with a significant budget and many moving parts
  • We brought in the chapter’s artists and allowed them to use their talents in an organizing context, and paid them for their work!
  • We met and brought into the chapter several volunteers who were previously not members or not engaged in the chapter’s work
  • We gave significant direct aid to many people in need

Love from Kids and the Press

Kids were always interested in our installations. We saw many dropped jaws, kids pointing, and stopping to look. One especially sweet youngster said that no one should go without a home, and that he’d give all his money to help people find shelter if he had any.”

Read press coverage of the creative campaign

Lessons Learned

Interactivity is super helpful at getting passersby to stop, pay attention, and talk. We knew this from the [Unstoppable Voters] training, but were overthinking what “interactive” could actually mean in our context. In the end, the interaction was simply taking an item from a volunteer and placing it somewhere else nearby — people were into it!”

A volunteer with Pittsburgh DSA wearing the campaign’s t-shirt speaks with a potential voter about their voting plan and how they can support housing justice. Photo by Eben Parker.
Three Pittsburgh DSA volunteers stand in front of Pittsburgh's City County Building to ask "most livable city...for who?" and to demand representatives "vote for more than this." The status quo is represented by a camping tent, which is all some of Pittsburghers have for shelter. Photo by Greg Sinn
Three Pittsburgh DSA volunteers stand in front of Pittsburgh’s City County Building to ask “most livable city…for who?” and to demand representatives “vote for more than this.” The status quo is represented by a camping tent, which is all some of Pittsburghers have for shelter. Photo by Greg Sinn

Created by Pittsburgh DSA including members Steph Sorenson, Brenden Rearick, Dana Leahy, and E. Forney.

Pittsburgh DSA led 17 actions reaching over 250 people, including helping 100 people make voting plans.

What is Unstoppable Voters?

Through the Center for Artistic Activism’s expansive Unstoppable Voters program, we support creatively risk-taking, strategic, ambitious organizations, people, and projects that address urgent and specific anti-voter attacks. We provide training and community building for individuals and groups who are passionate about protecting the freedom to vote and bringing the needed innovation to that fight. And we provide funding and support to help manifest that innovation and bring real, measurable impact. To date, we’ve helped over 80 organizations and over 900 individual activists, artists, and everyone in between make voting accessible, safe, joyful, powerful, and irresistible.

Learn more about Unstoppable Voters and how creativity and culture are leading the way