Design agency uses secret weapon to press Congress on Trump's budget: The fax

Use All Five is faxing art to Congress to try to save funding for the National Endowment for the Arts with its Artifax push.

An example fax sent by Artifax (image and artwork by Use All Five)
An example fax sent by Artifax (image and artwork by Use All Five)

LOS ANGELES: Design and technology agency Use All Five is putting an old technology to use in its campaign to save National Endowment for the Arts funding: the fax machine.

Consumers concerned about the proposed elimination of NEA funding can fax artwork and personalized messages to their members of Congress with Use All Five’s Artifax project.

Amid a sea of phone and email campaigns to reach Congress since President Donald Trump released his budget proposal, Use All Five CEO Levi Brooks said he was looking for a different way to hector lawmakers.

"We were trying to figure out the most interesting way to get the attention of Congress," said Brooks. "I read recently that phone calls and emails are difficult to get in front of [members of] Congress, so we were trying to think of other mediums to reach them. Faxing is still widespread in Congress, and that's an interesting model."

Trump’s budget proposal, introduced in March, calls for the elimination of funding for the NEA, along with other cultural organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Congress has until April 28 to pass a budget resolution to avoid a government shutdown.

Use All Five is spreading the word about Artifax through social media, earned media, and the staff’s network of artists and designers. Brooks has also reached out to organizations that support the arts to share the project on their mailing lists. In the week after its launch, Artifax sent about 600 faxes to Congress.

Use All Five developed the project internally because the arts and NEA funding is important to both its staff and client list, which is comprised mostly of creatives.

"We understood how important the NEA was as an organization and a service to the country," Brooks said. "There’s a dedication to the arts here, so we kept pursuing the project and pushing forward."

Artifax has 20 artists contributing to the artwork used on the faxes. Some are related to NEA funding, like a piece that shows how small the NEA budget is relative to the entire federal budget.

"It’s an interesting idea to actually have printed art," Brooks said. "The physicality of it has so much impact, especially with all the digital emails [going to Congress]. Actually sending a fax is a little more personal. There’s something fun about actually sending a physical piece of paper."

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