The L.A. Illustrator Behind This Viral DACA Protest Art Wants More Than "Likes"
There’s a photo of Ashley Lukashevsky at Placita Olvera holding a poster aloft as she stands amidst other protesters. She’s focused on something in front of her, both hands holding either side of an illustration showing three brown bodies sitting on top of a mound of earth. Roots spread out beneath them and flowers sprout above them. Two of them wear graduation caps and another wears a shirt that reads, “This is Home.” The hashtag #DefendDACA floats above the whole scene.
The sign Lukashevsky is holding is actually one she created. Although she studied international relations, the L.A.-based illustrator found herself pursuing a career in graphic design. She remembers doodling a lot as a kid but ultimately “lost the habit over the years.” In graphic design, she racked up an impressive portfolio including work for celebrities like Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa. But then the election happened.
“I was just really brokenhearted and really pissed off,” says Lukashevsky. “I started to draw again just to kind of release this anxiety and anger that was inside of me.”
Part of that process led her to post her drawings on social media to “also help people to process what’s going on.” Lukashevsky began working a lot with Amplifier, creating illustrations related to social and political issues. She recently created a series of images for Amplifier and Rock the Vote that highlights issues with voter ID laws.
Lukashevsky started to create more and more socially conscious illustrations, ones that got shared on social accounts like Women’s March, Culture Strike, Undocumedia and more. A post from earlier this year on the Women’s March Facebook page reads “Today’s #SignofResistance is by Ashley Lukashevsky. Together we will rise, and together we will resist. #ReflectandResist.”
For the recent anniversary of the first DACA application, California Endowment commissioned a piece from Lukashevsky. The image has popped up on many people’s social media accounts after the news that DACA will be rescinded.
“I see art and design as this great amplifier of marginalized voices,” says Lukashevsky. “The reason I just jumped into graphic design in the first place after studying something completely different is that I kind of had this realization that design was able to draw awareness to issues.”
Her illustrations often include information on how to take action, in the hopes of inspiring others. That can be a website with more information, a number to text so that faxes will be sent to representatives or an address for an upcoming protest.
“It’s really important to me to have some kind of action item because, although I like my artwork to be upbeat and positive, I don’t want it to be something that’s just like a feel-good, ‘I’m just gonna like and then my work’s done,’” says Lukashevsky. “I want my art to be something that makes people really think about these issues and to think about what they can do next.”
And that often involves heading out to protests, like the one she attended at Placita Olvera. Living in L.A. means paying especially close attention to a lot of the issues that Lukashevsky illustrates.
“I think it’s strange that so many people do lead very insular lives in L.A.,” says Lukashevsky. “Because they’re not interacting with people different from them. But if you are — and you are in L.A. — I don’t know how you could ignore these issues.”
On her website, Lukashevsky makes clear that her services are available for a variety of organizations — particularly ones with a small budget that can’t pay a hefty amount for graphic design work. For those organizations, she offers a much lower rate than her usual one.
When she’s not working on commissions, Lukashevsky also supports other creators. She recently donated prints to a fundraiser for a community print shop. She also created a work of art for an upcoming art show organized by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, creator of Puerto Rican superhero La Borinqueña; profits go to buying art supplies for kids in the Bronx and Puerto Rico.
Many of her followers often DM her to ask more questions about how they can get involved in their communities. Others comment on her posts saying they have called representatives. That sense of community is important to Lukashevsky.
“I want to make space for people to feel positive and be able to feel like they’re part of a larger community that feels the same way that they do,” says Lukashevsky.
Social media continues to be a powerful way for the illustrator to connect with others and find ways to take action.
“When something happens and I’m pissed, I’ll just type into Facebook the issue and then protest and there’s usually something,” says Lukashevsky. “There are people who feel the same way.”
But her focus still remains on bridging the distance between online activism and offline action. That’s what she aims to do with each illustration.
“Liking isn’t the end of the road,” says Lukashevsky. “You have to like but then you have to do something.”
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