The fax machine isn’t dead. In fact, it’s the latest tool of the resistance.
A new campaign called Artifax is encouraging artists, designers, and activists to get the attention of lawmakers by faxing protest art to congressional offices. The goal is to boldly and vocally demand support for national arts funding.
The Artifax slogan is simple: “Protect the arts. Fax Congress.”
Artists can donate work to Artifax that embodies “freedom of expression.” Any supporter can then use an online form to choose their favorite art, personalize the fax with a message about the importance of arts funding, and select their local lawmaker. Once they submit the form, Artifax will send the fax to that lawmaker, encouraging them to vote against proposed cuts.
“We realized there was another option: fax machines.”
Use All Five, a Los Angeles-based design and technology studio, created the campaign to fight potential cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) by the Trump administration. It’s the first time a president has proposed eliminating arts funding since the endowments were instituted in 1965.
“Anyone that dedicates their work to the arts knows that funding for the arts has already been a struggle,” said Troy Kreiner, art director for Use All Five. “So, defunding the NEA was the hay bale that broke the camel’s back.”
The NEA only makes up $148 million — or .003 percent — of the total $3.9 trillion in federal spending per year. Overall cultural programs — including the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — equal only .02 percent of the federal budget.
With that modest chunk of federal money, the endowment supports arts programs nationwide — especially in low-income areas — funding things like libraries, museums, local music programs, literary fellowships, and much more. Cutting NEA funding is a move many activists see as an attack on the arts, not a necessary cut to save federal dollars.
But why fight back with old-school fax machines? Kreiner said the medium is perfect, because it’s one of the most underutilized pieces of office equipment.
“Many people complained about their representatives having full mailboxes or busy phone lines, and we realized there was another option: fax machines,” he said.
Faxes also have the added bonus of being a tangible product. As paper piles up, lawmakers can see visible support for a cause.
“They’re physical and inconveniencing,” the Artifax website says. “That’s what it takes to convey an impactful message to your representatives.”
As of April 11, Artifax has sent more than 1,800 faxes to congressional officials. Although the creators haven’t yet seen lawmakers respond directly to them, 11 House Republicans recently moved to support increasing the NEA budget.
“An artwork and personalized statement from a registered constituent is going to increase the effectiveness of the message being conveyed,” Kreiner said. “And that message then has a greater chance of convincing a representative why the NEA is worth protecting.”