Why do fair maps matter? League of Women Voters of Wake County asked artists around the state to answer by entering our Fair Maps Art Contest. We held the contest to draw attention to redistricting, which is currently underway at the state and local levels.
For first place winner Elizabeth Trefney of Raleigh, the answer is simple: It’s about giving voice to the people. Her piece, “Real Maps Real Voices,” revolves around four protesters with blurred-out signs. Trefney says that’s no accident. “I was trying to figure out what to put on their signs and I realized that part of the point of this entire contest is to show that when policy makers create maps that don’t reflect the people’s everyday values, [they’re] not listening,” she said.
Trefney and second-place winner Anna Podris were interviewed separately by LWV-Wake about politics and art, redistricting, and the meaning behind their works. Read their responses below. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
LWV-Wake: Why did you enter the art contest?
Elizabeth: I was thinking all about activists and everyday people who go on the front lines and work to end gerrymandering and support fair maps, and I wanted to contribute to the contest to highlight them and all of their work.
Above: "Fair Maps Real Voices," winning entry by Raleigh artist Elizabeth Trefney
LWV-Wake: Tell us a little bit about your piece.
Elizabeth: It’s all in this very jagged shape. There is no rhyme or reason to the patterns. Which is supposed to represent the kind of wild gerrymandered-drawn districts that are just insane to look at. So, the people in the center are holding up their signs, and they’re really the bridge and the most powerful connection between the everyday family, home, the everyday person, and this kind of vague legislative building from the top. I left it all without eyes or faces or a direct reference to a specific building because I wanted everyone to be involved. They could envision themselves holding the signs or being there and just the general massive impact that this has on everyone.
Above: "Democracy Is Rooted in Fair Voting Districts" by Raleigh artist Anna Podris
Anna (Democracy Is Rooted in Fair Voting Districts): I definitely wanted to show people of different genders, races, ages, just to kind of express that we are a diverse state here and that everybody’s voice needs to be heard through their vote. And their vote can only really be fair, if it’s counted in a fair way. So, with them [the NC legislature or local governments] gerrymandering the districts like they are doing, they’re putting together people they think are going to vote a certain way so they can amplify that vote. To me, the root of a democracy is having your vote count.
Q. What do you hope people who see this piece will take away from it?
Elizabeth: That your voice is so powerful and that you carry the team. Literally, you carry everyone with your activism whether you’re just writing about it to your friends and family, or in the pandemic online like this online art contest. Whatever you’re doing to draw attention to this, your voice matters and you are important and you are heard. I’m confident that what you do makes a difference. Again, you’re the most powerful bridge.
Anna: You see there are lots of different types of people and then the roots. It’s like we all have roots here and this is our home and we’re living here together. Everyone is going to be looking out for their own interest, but they need to be thinking about other people’s interests too when they vote. Not just themselves. Because really redistricting is the root of the problem. Because without fair districts we can’t get anything done that we want to do, or that anyone wants to do. You can’t have your voice heard.
Q. What is the power of art in politics to an audience?
Elizabeth: I think it defies the bounds and it presents information in a way that makes you want to be involved. It’s different from just talking or writing an essay. It’s a language we can all enjoy and we all can love. It breaks down information, again into a way that can be accessible if done correctly. And it appeals to people of all ages.
Want to know more about redistricting in NC?
You can learn more about redistricting at our Redistricting page. Stay up-to-date with what state lawmakers are doing via the North Carolina General Assembly's redistricting page at ncleg.gov. You can also: