The personal, they say, is the political. The musical, especially at Austin City Limits Music Festival, can be the political, too.
This year’s ACL Fest has held its fair share of raging against the machine, from Chvrches singer Lauren Mayberry’s Brett Kavanaugh-inspired primal scream of a four-letter word, to Lily Allen’s dedication of an expletive-centric song to President Donald Trump. While those on-stage moments were decidedly left-wing, a mural installed in Zilker Park for the fest is meant as a nonpartisan way to move some Texans to the polls, according to the local grassroots organization Midterms Matter.
The organization claims that midterm election voter turnout in Texas is the lowest in the nation; the Houston Chronicle reported the same in September. That’s where the ACL Fest mural comes in: to tell young attendees that “nothing is louder than a vote,” according to a Midterms Matter news release.
Austin-based artist Xavier Schipani painted the mural in the park during the first weekend of the fest, said Midterms Matter co-founder Elizabeth Chapin as fest-goers walking near the Miller Lite stage stopped by the wall for a civic-minded photo opportunity on Saturday. Her daughter, 18-year-old Alabel Chapin -- who also helps curate the project’s social media presence -- joined her at the wall to engage with people stopping by.
“The reaction we’ve been seeing is enthusiastic,” Elizabeth Chapin said. “People seem super activated and psyched to vote.”
Festival attendees stopping by for a photo held up a white flag saying “Vote!” and “Nov. 6,” the day of midterm elections in the U.S. The art on the wall features figures of people of all genders, colors, shapes and sexualities. It also bears a variety of emblems and slogans: a transgender pride flag; a peace symbol; a woman holding a sign that says “Keep families together!”; another holding a banner reading “You vote is your voice!”; and more.
Midterms Matter was launched with the support of Downtown for Democracy, an “artist-led NYC-based political collective” and the organization’s primary source of funding, according to the organization. Though the ACL Fest mural installation is billed by organizers as a nonpartisan voter-mobilization effort, Downtown for Democracy’s website positions itself as political action committee with a “commitment to America’s progressive traditions.”
Elizabeth Chapin said she’s seen “a high rate of female enthusiasm for what we’re doing” over the past two weekends at ACL Fest. Many women told her personal stories during the first weekend, she said, in the midst of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It felt very honoring to be the receiver of their stories,” she said.For her part, Alabel Chapin said she is disturbed at how apathetic her generation is about government and voting.
“We are the future,” she said. “I just want to make this an America I can be excited about.”