People hold homemade signs and placards against Trump
©Michael Smith

The art of protest

In his first UK trip since taking office, President Trump courted controversy but avoided our capital. Even so, tens of thousands of people, many first time demonstrators, took to London’s streets. Amongst them was Kim Grant, our Finance Chair.

The arguments against the president’s policies and actions are innumerable but for Kim, the tipping point was the President’s seemingly wilful desire to destroy public funding for the arts, and a fear that what happens in America may soon follow in the UK.


“I remember it was a Friday. And it was my first time. My first time in over fifty years.


We walked through the London streets amazed at what we saw. People around us being clever and serious and funny and thoughtful. And determined. The buildings on each side of street were astounding. You don’t see the art of a building until you have the time. Looking up you see the work, dedication, imagination. And the art. It was wondrous.

We walked further, the people around us still passionate. Art was being advertised by giant bunting hung between the gorgeous buildings from one side to the other over the street. To an art gallery that we must go to. When we have the time.

We continued walking together to Trafalgar Square. Wow. Statues, incredible statues. Have you looked? Have you had the time? The fourth plinth. What would you put there? Art everywhere. There was a band playing music. Art for all the senses.

Pink placard reading "This is not America - David Bowie" is held up in a demonstration crowd.
Photo ©Michael Smith


It may be apocryphal, but during the Second World War when it was suggested to Churchill to close the theatres as part of the war effort, he said…’then what are we fighting for’? The theatres stayed open.

Homemade banner with the caption "Tasteful Wallpaper Designers Against Trump" with a photo of William Morris.
Photo ©Michael Smith


Time was running out. I had to do something. I had to protest. I had to march. While there was still time. My first time in over fifty years.

Buildings, paintings, music, protest signs. Art.

It’s questionable if a protest march will actually make a difference. Although it’s been reported that on that Friday over 250,000 people thought that it might.

Two people in demo crowd wearing tshirts with "If I'm being completely honest, I'd really rather you hadn't come."
Photo ©Michael Smith


We must all do something we feel passionate about. #dumpTrump

Art is all around us. And we can’t lose it. If we allow it to disappear, then what are we fighting for?

The National Campaign for the Arts is fighting for us all. Time and time again.”


UPDATE: On 18th July The New York Times published an article highlighting how President Trump has not yet presented the National Arts Medals for 2016. The White House has responded to questions saying that planning is underway to distribute them later this year.

It should be noted that President Obama delayed the awards in his first year of office, but it is now almost two years since the medals were given on. The delay could be due to the administrative backlog or perhaps 45’s fear of a recipient turning down the award as a protest. Read the full article here.