Artist Marilyn Minter thought she’d never have to do it again, but there she was on Saturday, riding a chartered bus in the pre-dawn chill, and later taking to the streets, to protest for women’s rights.
From the Public Theater in New York City, the fuchsia-colored bus filled with art world luminaries — also including artist Laurie Simmons, musician Laurie Anderson, art gallery owner Jeanne Greenberg-Rohatyn — headed to the Women’s March on Washington, a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th U.S. president.
“I am pretty angry,” said Minter, 68, whose white T-shirt spelled out “pro choice” against a portrait she made of singer Miley Cyrus. Minter came despite fighting bronchitis. “I would not dare to miss it,” she said.
The art world is mobilizing against a Trump presidency, which is viewed by many artists, dealers and some wealthy collectors as a threat to core liberal values such as abortion rights, as well as to key organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts.
“There’s something for everyone to get upset about: the climate, defunding Planned Parenthood, building the wall, relationship with Russia,” said Simmons, 67, who organized the bus trip for 53 people. “Take your pick.”
Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets of Washington, where less than 24 hours earlier Trump had taken the oath of office, and many other U.S. and foreign locations. Celebrities such as singers Madonna and Alicia Keys, activist/filmmaker Michael Moore, and several members of Congress spoke at the flagship event. Demonstrators in Washington stretched for blocks, and subway trains overflowed.
The protest has “already made a difference,” Moore said in an interview. “Women just had the largest demonstration in the history of the United States of America. This is the Woodstock of this moment.”
More than 20 buses chartered by galleries including David Zwirner, artists and nonprofit groups traveled to Washington from New York, according to the organizers. A caravan of five buses ferried 160 people for free thanks to sponsors including Matthew Marks Gallery and Jill Kraus, art collector and a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. On other buses travelers received Washington Metro cards, hats, disposable raincoats, and farm eggs with fennel salt for breakfast.
Minter, who got her start as a protester during civil-rights marches in the 1960s and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Planned Parenthood, distributed the organization’s unofficial buttons.
“It’s not going to be that easy to turn back the clock,” she said. “I want to see people make their legislators crazy.”
A loud cheer erupted when the bus hit the road at 6:15 a.m. People read, napped and followed updates on social media. Women usually outfitted in stilettos and designer clothes at art events wore baggy sweatshirts and camouflage coats. Simmons’s top spelled out “feminist” in cursive. Passengers compared protest signs, and passed homemade sandwiches across the aisle.
Simmons, 67, one of the top contemporary artists, got her start in activism as a college freshman in 1967 with protests against the Vietnam War. She has since marched in support of women’s reproductive rights and in opposition to the Iraq War. She’s helped raise money for Planned Parenthood and interlocked arms with others outside an abortion clinic to allow patients to enter and exit safely.
“I always want to get there and be counted,” said Simmons. “Things have changed in this country as a result of millions of people making clear how they feel.”
As the bus headed back to New York, a passenger popped a bottle of Prosecco and plastic glasses of bubbly were passed around. “To Laurie,” people cheered and raised glasses in honor of Simmons. “Yes we can!” said Yvonne Force Villareal, co-founder of New York’s Art Production Fund. And the bus-riders chanted back: “Yes we can!”