Carnegie Mellon University
October 27, 2020

On-Campus, Virtual Events Encourage Voting

By Julie Mattera

Julie Mattera
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-2902

In the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election, Carnegie Mellon University artists and designers are focusing their creative energies to get people out to vote.

While Carnegie Mellon's Miller Institute for Contemporary Art is hosting artistic projections on campus, students are designing digital communications and even hosting a music concert controlled by a voting audience. One faculty member also has created an "I Voted" sticker that will be distributed around the country.

Here are a few things happing on campus and virtually:

Jenny Holzer's Digital Animation Display

A photo of one of Jenny Holzer's projections that reads "Vote: It's good for your health"Through Thursday this week, the Miller ICA will project a selection from Jenny Holzer's YOUVOTE campaign on the outside of its building on CMU's campus. The project will be visible from Forbes Avenue off of the university's campus.

"The timeliness of the Get Out The Vote: Empowering the Women's Vote exhibition and its outward-facing Jenny Holzer's Digital Animation Display projection are part of a broader effort to expand the Miller ICA's exhibition practices to include public spaces," said Miller ICA Director Elizabeth Chodos. "Especially during the pandemic, when access to our physical space is limited, it is more important than ever to bring the art and commentary about our society to as many audiences as possible."

YOUVOTE focuses on key areas in swing states like Pennsylvania to champion broad political engagement, issue awareness and voter empowerment. Holzer has presented her work in public places for more than 40 years, including at the 7 World Trade Center, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

'I Voted' Sticker for New York Magazine Cover

I voted stickerCMU School of Art Professor Devan Shimoyama is one of the 48 artists who created "I Voted" stickers for the cover of New York Magazine's Oct. 26 issue.

The magazine reached out to the artists in partnership with I am a voter, a nonpartisan movement that encourages civic engagement for the betterment of our democracy. The issue, whose cover has been transformed into a sticker sheet, has four different versions. Additionally, 500,000 more stickers will be available for free at bookstores, museums and retail stores across the United States.

Read more about the stickers in New York Magazine.

Collaboration with

Students in CMU's School of Design collaborated with to design a digital communication that educates, motivates and empowers first-time voters. and the Student Public Interest Research Group's New Voters Project works with universities to encourage students to participate in the election.

"The opportunity to partner with was an invaluable experience for the students," said Associate Professor Kristin Hughes. "They had a chance to direct their creative voices towards a critical issue — increase the younger generation voter turnout. The student work speaks volumes — highlighting pressing social and environmental issues young people care about and inviting their peers to use their voice with a vote."

Student projects focused on a variety of topics, including engaging LGBTQIA+ student voters and raising awareness of the impact voting can have on prevailing issues facing the nation.

Exploded Ensemble presents: democracy in action

Exploded Ensemble Presents: Democracy in ActionOn Sunday, Nov. 1, CMU's Exploded Ensemble will play a live concert on that lets the audience's vote determine different aspects of the performance in real time. Attendees can vote on the order of the concert; to control the video, set colors, create text overlays; and to change the sound mix and effects.

Members of the Exploded Ensemble, which is a part of the Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe) Network, will perform the concert from across the country, said Jesse Stiles, co-director of the ensemble and associate professor at CMU's School of Music and IDeATe.

Audiences often participate in online concerts through a chat window or like buttons. Stiles and Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, assistant teaching professor in CMU's School of Music and IDeATe, wanted to transform those interactions into something that radically changed the audience experience. As a jumping off point, they used a genre of gaming developing on Twitch where viewers control the game being streamed by typing commands into the chat window.

"We're extending this concept into an interaction with an entire music ensemble, allowing the audience to control the sounds the musicians make, alter their appearances and otherwise intervene into the concert experience. This is all being done through software we're developing with the students that lets the audience take over certain parameters of the sound-making process," Stiles said. "Since our concert falls on the eve of the eve of the election, we thought the concept was a perfect fit: sonic democracy!"

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