Activate: Shepard Fairey and the Art of Protest

Lake Ontatrio Hall Wall Gallery, Allendale Campus
July 8, 2022 - December 16, 2022
Reception: Thursday, October 27, 2022 | 5pm - 7pm

Building hours vary.


DeVos Center Wall Gallery, Pew Campus
January 6 - June 16, 2023

blank white banner used for spacing

Shepard Fairey has built a career by speaking his mind through art and design. A contemporary artist, activist, and collaborator, Fairey is best known for his impassioned messages and bold graphics. His work combines elements of fine art, street art, and commercial design with an undercurrent of political distrust and activism. Fairey engages his audience in multiple ways, producing posters, stickers, album covers, clothing, murals, and other printed materials, some of which fund social and political grassroots efforts and organizations.

Born in 1970, Fairy attended the Idyllwild Arts Academy and then graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1992. While in school, he applied his skills to t-shirt and skateboard designs and entered the public sphere by creating and distributing a sticker with professional wrestler André the Giant’s image on it. Fairey quickly learned the power of messaging in public space as his image and “Obey Giant” slogan quickly drew attention. He continued to work on a variety of projects until 2008 when his work entered mainstream culture with the creation of the iconic “Hope” poster of then U.S. Presidential candidate Barrack Obama. Since then, he has become increasingly involved in activism and humanitarian issues amidst greater commercial success.

Activate: Shepard Fairey and the Art of Protest focuses primarily on Fairey’s engagement with social and political issues through his popular screen-printed posters. Drawn from the collection of Grand Valley alumni Rory ’14 and Emily ’14, ’20 Miller, it includes posters from the last ten years that Fairey created in reaction to current events and to support specific marches, events, and related organizations. More specifically, the work responds to social and political corruption in the U.S. government, offers support to environmental and humanitarian crises, reacts to American gun culture and violence, and relays messages of hope and inclusion amidst the current climate of divisive politics. Never one to shy away from hard topics, Fairey confronts the viewer and asks them to join the cause.

all the free speech money can buy

Shepard Fairey, All the Free Speech Money Can Buy, Poster, Private Collection

Blank white banner used for spacing.

Collector's Statement

Shepard Fairey: A Radicalized, Modern Artist, Whom I Adore

Collecting items is a problem I tend to have. Books, furniture, beer, and art are a few of my vices. Atop the hoard of artwork is an artist I tend to agree with implicitly; Shepard Fairey. His capacity to plaster messages explicitly within the viewer’s eyesight, while including subliminal, minimalist cues throughout an entire work fascinates me. Fairey creates intriguing, visually fascinating spaces that leave me wanting more.  

I have long adored printmaking for its ability to mass-produce identical pieces with incredible accuracy, continuing to replicate in a mechanical, yet delicate and beautiful way. Shepard Fairey’s mastery of printmaking, screen printing in particular, draws me to his work in a technical way, but also allows his artwork to be more openly accessible and collectible to a greater audience. Fairey's use of his cultural influence and artistic platform to spread awareness via art and activism is something I admire about his work. There isn’t a specific subject matter or content of his work that I seek out, but rather I view the imagery, message, and work as a whole. My collection includes portraits of individuals influential to Shepard, calls to activism on behalf of the environment, culture, and humankind as a whole, and works that are simply beautiful to view in any context. The vast array of subject media and imagery included in Shepard Fairey’s portfolio will ensure I never tire of collecting his work.  

Art has the capacity to speak to us, conveying thoughts and feelings that at times are difficult to communicate, through visually intriguing, albeit sometimes upsetting, imagery juxtaposed alongside intrinsic value and worth. I believe that art is essential to life, dialogue and growth, and I am very grateful for the ability to collect artwork that supports these beliefs.

Rory Miller


blank white banner used for spacing


July 8, 2022 - December 16, 2022

Lake Ontario Hall Wall Gallery
Lake Ontario Hall, Allendale Campus
4023 Calder Dr
Allendale, MI 49401

For directions and parking information visit


For special accommodation, please call:
(616) 331-3638

For exhibition details and media inquires, please email:
Joel Zwart, Curator of Exhibitions
[email protected]

For learning and engagement opportunities, please email:
Amanda Rainey, UX/Learning Manager
[email protected]

Page last modified November 1, 2022