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Oly Loves Planned Parenthood creates more than art for art’s sake

Olympia gets behind Planned Parenthood. Photo by Ruby Re-Usable

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When I think of political protest, I don't usually think cute or sweet or quirky. I also don't usually think of art.

But Oly Loves Planned Parenthood, a loosely organized network with a high percentage of working artists and art lovers, has made its protests all of those things.

Since February, they've carried letter-pressed and hand-painted signs, often decorated with hearts. They've held bake sales. Organizer Sarah Adams, a filmmaker and performance artist, did a comedy piece about the protests as part of Michelle Tea's "Sister Spit" show in Olympia in March.

And Friday, July 15, the group is holding an art show and party with music by the Olympia Free Choir, a DJ, pizza and cupcakes (probably the cutest and possibly sweetest of baked goods).

The pro-choice protests - Fridays outside of Planned Parenthood, 402 Legion Way, Olympia - were designed to counter the pro-life protests outside the building. (You know, where the van with the enormous picture of a fetus is often parked.)

"The community that we built at punk shows, art shows and dance nights turned all of our talents into creating this beautiful presence on the street corner - inspiring people with love, positivity, music, cookies, pizza, friendship and solidarity," Adams says.

It is, she says, "more meaningful than art for art's sake."

Since the beginning, art has been an integral part of the group's activities. Sign painter Ira Coyne and painter/graphic artist Sarah Utter created signs. The Greta Jane Quartet and the Artesian Rumble Arkestra played to raise money for the cause. Arts commissioner and librarian Kelsey Smith and recycled-materials artist Ruby Re-Usable held bake sales.

"There is a beauty in letterpress printing and sign-painting that creates a united front," Utter says. "And a good color-combo and graphic layout furthers your chances that someone might actually read your sign."

Utter, whose paintings (often of animals) and T-shirts (remember "Reading Is Sexy"?) has designed a cute yellow bumper sticker - yes, with a heart - that the group can sell. It will be available at the art show if it ships in time.

Protest art, she says, inspires community discussion.

"The pro-life banners that frequently appear outside of Planned Parenthood are intended as a form of shock-and-awe," she says. "They don't inspire much dialogue. Compare that with a simple homemade sign that says, ‘My mom is pro-choice,' and you have something to think about, no matter which side of the abortion issue you stand on."

The centerpiece of the show are the old signs that have lasted through many rainy winter days - many, Utter says, did not survive at all - along with photos of the protesters, including one showing an "American Gothic" style couple holding signs and another showing a pro-life protester with a sign that says "It's easy to be pro-choice when you are not the one being killed" and Adams with a counter-sign reading "It's easy to be pro-life when you are not the one being pregnant."

"The picture of that went viral," Adams says. "It got posted like 30,000 times on blogs and and

"After that happened, I took another look at that," she adds. "I thought, ‘I'm not here to get into an argument with those guys.' We're just really here to show love and support. We sort of stand there as if they don't even exist."

Besides the much loved old signs, some of which can be taken home by donation, the art show includes the debut of new signs designed by illustrator and cartoonist Chelsea Baker.

It's no surprise that the new sign reads, "Oly <3 Planned Parenthood."

But in this case, cute gets a twist: One version is also decorated with sweet little cartoons of popular methods of birth control.

Oly Loves Planned Parenthood Creative Protest Art & Awards Show

Friday, July 15, 8–11 p.m.
exhibit open through July 17
Northern, 321 Fourth Ave. NE, Olympia

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