Meet Amanda Benton, the Philly Artist Who Won the Barack Obama ‘Art Works’ Contest

amandaThe Obama campaign invited artists from all over the country to enter a campaign contest that would create posters promoting the American Jobs Act, a series of job-creating initiatives the president introduced earlier this year. The campaign gave the artists a number of ideas on which to focus (rebuilding America, getting the country back to work, believing in the American Dream). Philly artist Amanda Benton, after finding out about the contest through a friend on Facebook, decided she’d give it a shot. The UArts graduate decided her digital print about the AJA would, instead of picking one aspect of the bill, emphasize all those themes—and, guess what? She won.

She says the idea for her print (on the left) was from old-time broadside posters, which were popular as public art to convey messages from the 1600s to early 20th Century. The posters were meant to catch one’s eye through large print, then reveal a manifesto when the viewer gets up close.

“The whole idea was to bring more attention to the American Jobs Act and get people involved,” Benton says. “And the text on my poster included all the themes we could choose from. I like the whole idea of [the American Jobs Act]. So, I thought it should have a broadside important announcement feel to it.”

The American Jobs Act proposed by Obama was initially rejected by Congress. President Obama and the Democratic Congress then tried pushing through various aspects of the Act, one-by-one, which has been met with more, but still minimal, success. Benton’s poster, then, reveals the initial enthusiasm of the bill, which will likely continue being fought for (by some Democrats) and against (by all Republicans) in 2012.

A couple weeks back, Benton found out her poster had been chosen as a Top 12 finalist in the contest and would then be voted on by visitors to artworks.barackobama.com. Her own campaign to get the votes involved a link on the opening page of her website, AmandaBenton.net, spreading the word through Facebook, and word-of-mouth through friends in Philly and family back in Western New York, where she’s originally from. Then, last Wednesday, she got a call saying she was one of the winners.

“I like the whole idea that it would be a good kick-starter for the economy and getting people back to work,” she says. “Other than the Jobs Act, there hasn’t been much of an effort to do that. It’s very typical of Obama to make a compromise between Democrats and Republicans—and the American Jobs Act involves ideas that both parties have supported in the past.”

Benton is no stranger to being recognized for her art. In addition to her recognition by the Obama Campaign, she’s also a recipient of the September 2011 cycle for the Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant. Through the grant, she’s creating three mall displays at the Gallery at Market East. All will describe the way women are portrayed in the media. As noted on the foundation’s site, “As opposed to traditional advertising efforts, her work will provoke the viewer to pause and think, rather than blindly accept and consume.”

The Obama campaign has offered her a prize she’s pretty excited about: A framed copy of the poster signed by President Obama, her poster sold in the Obama ’12 campaign shop and the publicity that comes with it.

“They said they were going to use the posters to promote the Jobs Act more. I don’t know what other ways they’re going to use the poster, but getting a framed and signed copy of it is awesome. It would be awesome if I got paid for it, but if it helps promote the Jobs Act and it gets passed through, that alone would be a great payoff for me,” she says.

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