WORDS BY GRETCHEN BAER
I am the artist who created the famous Hillcar, an art car covered in portraits of Hillary Clinton, glitter, and sparkly objects. I drove the Hillcar thousands of miles across the U.S. wearing pantsuits covered in hand-stenciled images of Hillary, while drumming support for Hillary’s 2008 and 2016 Presidential campaigns. I also created The Hillary Clinton Army, a group with a mission to support Hillary’s campaign through art and music. While traveling in the Hillcar on the campaign trail, we loved red lights, intersections, and traffic in general. It gave us time to send bubbles out the windows, say hello to admirers, and simply add a little magic to people’s days. We always received smiles, waves, and cheers! In 2018, the Hillcar is still my everyday car. Where I live in Bisbee, Arizona, it is a beloved aspect of our town and a key portion of all the local tours. I’m proud to drive it everywhere I go.
I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard Island, Massachusetts, as the daughter of two artists. For many years, my father was the only art school teacher on the island, and my mother was one of the island’s few photographers. I was raised in an environment of total artistic freedom and encouragement. I have spent most of my life transforming what I see around me into art. I have made many art cars, art boats, and even spent two years sailing on an art raft that was shaped like a dragon. Long story short, I believe every child should be given as much creative support as I was given.
I first became aware of Hillary in the early 1990’s on Martha’s Vineyard Island, where the Clintons vacationed during the summer. I was especially impressed with Hillary’s commitment to ensuring all children get a quality education, which most certainly includes the arts. I vowed that if she should ever run for president, I would do everything in my power to help make this happen. I have spent countless hours imagining what life would be like with Hillary as president. I wish this dream was our current reality, a reality where we live in a world ruled by love, kindness, creativity, and equality. This is the world I will always strive to create for myself and those around me, and so I chose to share this vision with the children living 6 miles south of Bisbee, on the the Mexican side of the U.S. border wall.
In 2010, I started painting the border wall with kids in Naco, Mexico. As The Border Bedazzlers, we spent 6 years painting the world’s longest kids’ mural—a full, continuous mile long. I wanted to show kids that through art and creativity, the impossible becomes possible. You can take something ugly, and transform it into a thing of beauty. The bigger the wall—the bigger the canvas!
In November of 2016, just after the nightmare election, I was told our painted border wall was going to be torn down and replaced with an unpaintable fence. I always imagined I would be happy when the wall came down. But since it was only being replaced, and our current administration is ramping up hatred and intolerance, I felt like the world was being torn down around me. I did not want to lose my connection with the kids across the border. I did not want to let them down and let the border between us win. I mentioned to volunteers in Mexico that I would like to start a free art center for kids in Naco. The very next day I was given keys to a building just across the port of entry. With the help of the many kids and volunteers, we painted the building in colorful murals of butterflies. We opened the doors to Studio Mariposa (Butterfly) on Inauguration Day 2017, as part of The Resistance. The kids know that when they see the Hillcar coming, it is time for art, snacks, music, and fun!
Studio Mariposa serves approximately 100 kids every week. We offer all kinds of art projects and music classes. With thanks to some very talented musicians who volunteer their time at the studio, we even have our own Mariposa Kids Band!
Studio Mariposa is a grassroots effort, solely supported by donations and volunteers. By empowering border kids with creativity, we are showing them how to turn their dreams into reality. We are also telling a different story about life on the border, a positive story about kids finding their voice through art. I believe that there are many little lights shining all over the world, inspired by the work of Hillary Clinton. Studio Mariposa is one of those little lights.
This essay appears on pages 94-95 in The Revolution Is Female.