Combining the Political and the Art World
Art for a Democratic Society is an organization dedicated to promoting a culturally and politically dynamic, vibrant, and relevant art scene at the grassroots level. We believe that open and democratic debate, discussion, and critique are preconditions for progressive and inclusive movements in politics, art, and culture. We seek to engage artists and art audiences in public discussions concerning the state of, and relationship between, art, politics, and culture in contemporary society. We are open to all individuals and organizations or collectives who wish to add their voices and perspectives to this project.
We are not interested in art as commodity or investment. We want art and an art scene that is meaningful and speaks to the world around us. Artists are not separated from the rest of society. We see art, not as an individual expression existing in a vacuum, but as the work of individuals or collaborations connected to the world and engaged in a dialogue with society. It is our aim to bring this cultural dialogue to the surface so that our communities can discuss and debate questions in a public and conscious way. In doing so we hope to attract new audiences who, once engaged in the discussions about art, might feel empowered and have a sense of ownership of the scene.
Without dialogue, debate, and democracy, there can be no progress. We believe this to be true of social and political movements as well as art movements. In the first half of the 20th century, modern art movements debated aesthetics and the meaning and possibilities of art through manifestos. The political radicals of the 1960s had newspapers and forums to exchange ideas and critique and debate the direction of the “New Left.” The French New Wave had the “Cahiers du Cinema” and the SDS had “New Left Notes.” Art for a Democratic Society’s first projects, Street Salon and the Manifesto Exchange, are an attempt to create spaces where the Oakland art scene might begin to have these exchanges and develop its own character both openly and consciously.
A4DS was founded in 2007 by Celeste Christie and Steve Damewood, who are now a husband-and-wife team. Francois and Sean were roped into the group to help with the Cries of SF project at Southern Exposure. Jesse and Ethan also performed as part of that project and joined A4DS shortly thereafter.
Owner, Lead Organizer
Celeste started A4DS with her husband Steve in 2007. She works for Root Division, Mark Poulin Jewelry, and The Crucible and also runs her own accessories line CC Star. She studied Theater at UCLA and Metal Arts at CCA.
Steve started A4DS with Celeste in 2007. He is a local activist and works in customer service. He studied English and Creative Writing at UCLA. He is involved in the writing, drawing, and Graphic Design of most of the zines.
Francois joined A4DS in 2011. He is also an activist in the same organization as Steve, working primarily on issues of police brutality in Oakland, and works as a builder and carpenter. He studied sculpture at CCA with Celeste.
Sean joined A4DS in 2011. He is a poet/rapper and works in a factory. He studied Theater at UCLA with Celeste. In A4DS, he often takes the lead in more performative aspects of our practice.
Ethan joined A4DS in 2011 and studied at Reed College with Jesse. An accomplished photographer, he recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce his book Shock and Awe.
Laura joined A4DS in 2015. An activist, she also works in customer service and is an illustrator.
- Accepts Etsy gift cards
Returns & exchanges
- Custom or personalized orders
- To communicate with you about your order
- To fulfill your order
- For legal reasons (like paying taxes)
Frequently asked questions
Custom and personalized orders
We make buttons and designs for left-wing causes at a special "political" rate. Please contact us if you are an organization and we'll discuss pricing and options.
Contact us for bulk pricing if you're interested in ordering more than 20 of any one item. We love doing orders for schools and organizations!
Gift wrapping and packaging
Due to the nature of our items, we don't generally gift wrap. If your purchase is a gift, let us know and we can include a note.
Our philosophy is to create art that is affordable for broke people like us. We use the small profit margins on our zines and buttons to subsidize projects and giveaways - we often give away zines or buttons in exchange for participation in one of our events.
We don't believe in copyright protection for the most part, so all of our work is fair use copyright, meaning if you want to use our text or images for anything that you're not going to then turn around and sell, by all means, go for it. We don't care if you scan a whole zine and put it on the web if that's your thing, as long as you're not making money off of it. But please if you do that, email us the link and credit our work!