Freak Power: Creative Activism & Local Politics

Explore the complicated dynamics of running for public office and learn more about the role visual culture can play in a political campaign.

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July 3rd, 2020 - November 8th, 2020

3rd Floor Art Forum Gallery

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“To be abnormal...to deviate from the style of government that I deplore in America today… is not only wise but necessary.”

Hunter S Thompson

Corrupt politicians, hippies, and a cry for change. See how politicians used art to mobilize young people to vote and transform their local government.

Browse over 100 vintage screen-printed posters, photos, films, and texts related to the Hunter S Thompson's Battle of Aspen. Explore how artists, beatniks and other concerned citizens creatively fought against gentrification, oppression, war, and environmental destruction in the elections of 1969.

Freak Power

Freak Power tells the story of Thompson's plan to become sheriff, take control of Aspen and transform it from a conservative mining town into a mecca for artists, rebels and activists. Through original print material from the campaign, photographs and political art, Freak Power chronicles a little known period in Hunter S Thompson's life, a period when he wrote prolifically about politics, the environment, drugs, and American values. As the conservatives and Thompson led liberals battled it out, the campaign became fraught with violence, accusations and moments of absurdity that bordered on fiction. As weird a tale as Thompson ever wrote, his own forays into politics may have been his wittiest and wisest escapade of all.

Featured alongside original artwork from the Battle of Aspen will be local examples of creative campaigns here in Santa Cruz County, including Hip Pocket Bookstore proprietor Peter Demma’s campaign for sheriff of Santa Cruz in 1973. Come explore the complicated dynamics of running for public office and learn more about the role of creative activism and visual culture in politics.

Freak Power collection curated by Daniel J. Watkins with original artwork by Ralph Steadman and Thomas W. Benton.

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Visit the MAH

Freak Power may not be here yet but stop by the MAH today to browse three floors of local art & history in downtown Santa Cruz.