A painter of the desert drives a campaign

Gretchen Baer poses with her Hillary Clinton art car.
Gretchen Baer poses with her Hillary Clinton art car.

When Gretchen Baer walks into the High Desert Market, her mid-calf plaid Chucks distinguish her from the already unique art community of Bisbee, Arizona.

The Massachusetts native says art has always been central to her life, but it only recently has become the hub of her political views.

“Art in the political realm is a wide open field,” Baer says. “It’s a match made in heaven.”

In an effort to “put the party back in Democratic Party,” Baer has taken her art on the road in the form of her Hillary Clinton art car.

This painting on wheels started back in 2008, along with the creation of Baer’s Hillary Clinton Army.

While Baer initially started the party to support Clinton, she stressed that the main point of the group is to create art and more importantly to have a good time.

“When I started the group, I said that there would never be any paperwork. Nothing boring,” Baer says. “This is total fun stuff all the time.”

This “fun stuff” took Baer and her unmissable “Hill Car” to Tucson where she met Hillary Clinton and made the plan to follow Clinton’s campaign trail.

It was in Pennsylvania where Clinton noticed the technicolor car and asked Baer to join her on her campaign.

Baer meeting Clinton for the first time at a rally in Tucson, Arizona.
Baer meeting Clinton for the first time at a rally in Tucson, Arizona.

Baer went through eight states in her car. She remembers enjoying each state and its people, regardless of their political party.

“People can get behind things as an art project just as an expression of creativity,” Baer says.

Now in 2016, Baer is continuing her road trip in the Hill car through the Northeast. While she is driving to support Clinton, she is also planning to talk about one of her other political art pieces back home in Arizona.

When Baer is not blazing the Clinton art trail, she can be found at the Arizona/Mexican border surrounded by kids and paint working on her Border Bedazzlers project.

For five years, Baer has built a community of young artists who have created what she calls “the world’s longest kids mural.”

Baer is under the belief that if the wall cannot be torn down, it can be bedazzled.

“An individual isn’t going to make the wall come down,” Baer says. “But an individual is going to find a bunch of kids and have a good time making a canvas of it.”

For Baer, the Border Bedazzlers project is much more than a political statement. She sees it as a chance to help the children who participate and to bring the community together.

Baer and children painting the Mexico/ United States wall for the Border Bedazzlers project.
Baer and children painting the Mexico/ United States wall for the Border Bedazzlers project.

“To me it’s about being kind and helping other people being creative,” Baer says. “We are trying to reach across the divide and bring people together”

It is this idea of a global community that Baer wants to bring with her as she follows the Clinton campaign on the east coast.

“I was to make people more aware of how to be good neighbors,” Baer says. “We do not need to treat our Mexican neighbors like they are our enemies.”

While immigration is an issue that largely affects Western states, Baer believes that through her use of art, she can inspire people on both sides of the border to be kinder and more accepting of one another.

“I believe in art, and sharing art and inspiring people,” Baer says. “Art is universal. You do not need to speak the same language to enjoy art.”

Tessa Patterson is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at tpatterson@email.arizona.edu

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