Colorado Springs is one of 10 cities across the country to receive mural installations as part of Facebook’s “Voting Is Voice” campaign, part of the platform’s broader initiative to support voting in the 2020 election. In a June 16 op-ed for USA Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “I believe platforms like Facebook can play a positive role in this election by helping Americans use their voice where it matters most — by voting. We’re announcing ... the largest voting information campaign in American history. Our goal is to help 4 million people register to vote.” Part of that initiative involves placing five murals in each of 10 cities.
“Facebook identified Colorado Springs as one of their target cities for this effort,” explains Claire Swinford, urban engagement director for the Downtown Partnership. “We were No. 3 on their list, right behind San Diego and Los Angeles. The rationale they gave us is that Colorado Springs has low voter turnout. ... They just popped up in my inbox with that message and said, ‘Can you help introduce us to property owners who may be willing to partner with us?’ We were very lucky that some of our friends in [the Hillside neighborhood] stepped up so quickly and some of our friends downtown did as well.”
Facebook selected five artists for the project, including Edie Fake, whose mural is on display on the east wall of the Hillside Community Center, overlooking a community garden. “I had done a project as part of the Facebook Artist in Residence program, and I think they were pulling from folks they had worked with before to come up with the Voting Is Voice initiative,” explains Fake. “I think voting is such a part of the big picture this year. It was an exciting project to be a part of.”
The 2020 election will be especially important for members of the LGBTQ community. “I think that in the past four years we’ve seen a complete empowerment of discrimination and oppression on many levels, especially for Black, Indigenous and people of color, and trans people and queer people in general,” says Fake. “I think this year voting the complete ballot to counteract that is pushing back against these kinds of huge forces that are at work right now.”
Fake’s mural, which reads, “You gotta vote” in yellow letters on a pink background, bordered by a colorful mosaic of geometric shapes, is informed by their existence as a transgender person. “My art is really centered on creating queer space and envisioning queer and trans spaces, both from history and the potential into the future,” says Fake. “Additionally, I have worked on design projects that have centered around gender-neutral bathrooms and out where I live [Joshua Tree, California], I was part of a group of folks who worked to kind of put up a billboard in support of trans people after we had a transphobic political campaign roll through our area in the midterms.”
Colorado saw its share of transphobic political efforts in February, when House District 14 Rep. Shane Sandridge introduced two bills targeting trans people. Both HB20-1114, which would have prohibited minors from accessing gender-affirming health care, and HB20-1273, which would have banned trans women from high school sports, failed to pass.
“A lot of my artwork draws from architectural details and a resourcefulness of the queer community and a willingness to both be resourceful and to celebrate our existence,” explains Fake. “That’s part of what brings the color and flashiness into my work. For this campaign especially I wanted it to be really direct and exciting and really queer, and getting at that through a celebration of color and pattern.”
Fake’s geometric style is informed partially by the art of architecture. “I lived [in] Chicago for a while and I felt all these traces of queer history there that weren’t overt,” they say. “I was like, ‘This building seems really gay.’ The ephemeral nature of queer space was really important for me to dig into then and now. Looking at the history of vanished spaces and vanished organizations, and things that people had started that had made an impact that aren’t widely known, and sort of reimagining those as queer space — that led me to the idea that we need to make space for ourselves now in society, as queer people, as trans people, and what does that look like? Especially when I feel there is so much that we’re written out of, just by gendered language and policy.”
In addition to murals, Fake is also known for the 2010 graphic novel Gaylord Phoenix, which they used to explore aspects of their own identity. “I started drawing it many moons ago,” they explain. “It was a self-published comic at first, based around centering a trans character and a character who moved through many states of gender as they had sexual encounters and different interactions in these fantasy environments. I used it as sort of a way to work through my own identity, and to see how a trans body moves through space, and also to be kind of weird and wonderful. I wanted to capture the things I didn’t have words for in my own identity, and kind of give them a world where they’re as fantastic as I thought they were.”