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One stroke, one vote
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Artist Robert Delutri at the Minnesota State Fair. Delutri is asking fairgoers to project their presidential preferences onto a paintbrush and help create a work of art. (MPR photo/Chris Roberts)
Politics and the Minnesota State Fair go back a long way. One local artist is using that tradition to create an interactive art display. Robert Delutri is making a painting by asking fairgoers to indicate their choice for president with one blue, red, white or black stroke of paint on a large canvas.

Falcon Heights, Minn. — Dave Benson and his daughter have just wandered into the Wonders of Technology building at the State Fair. Their eyes settle on what looks like an abstract, graffiti-like painting bursting with bold swipes of red, white and blue acrylic paint. After a few minutes, artist Robert Delutri approaches Benson and asks if he'd like to artistically register his presidential vote.

"Based on who you're gonna vote for you get one color, one vote," Delutri says. "Red is for Bush, Blue is for Kerry, white is for any third party candidate. What color would you like?"

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Image A "presidential" painting.

"I'd take the blue," Benson says.

"There you go," Delutri says. "Great!"

Delutri runs a studio that helps organizations and companies use art and artists to unleash their creative potential and become more innovative. He's been a nearly constant presence at the fair since 1996, developing and conducting interactive art projects. Under Delutri's guidance, fairgoers have created massive paintings and sculpture. This time he's asking people to project their presidential preference onto a paintbrush in an extremely divisive election year.

"You never know who's gonna walk in the door," he says. "The number of decisions that brought each person to this particular point, and resulted in that particular mark on the canvas, I just get energized by it, I guess."

Delutri calls his project "The Art of Politics: One Stroke, One Vote." Only people of voting age are allowed to make their mark.

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Image Susan of Andover.

Each day of the fair, a new painting is made. Delutri estimates the final piece will be about 20-feet long.

Susan of Andover watched a few people paint squiggly and straight blue lines on the canvas, denoting their support of John Kerry. She decided she needed to make her voice, or rather her brush heard, with an emphatic stroke of red.

Susan says it wasn't the political nature of the exhibit that initially caught her attention, but the painting itself.

"It looked interesting, first of all, just the idea of it, and it's always good to place a vote," she says. "Not my voice counts but my stroke counts."

On this day, the painting almost vibrates with red and blue strokes. It looks like somebody's abstract vision of the American flag. There are few splashes of white, signifying third party presidential candidates, and hardly any black strokes, representing voters who plan to abstain.

Delutri says at times the project has almost reached the level of political theater or performance art. He's seen some people cheer as participants paint over a blue mark with red, or the other way round.

"The emotions run pretty high and people really get involved in a different level than they have other projects," he says.

But Delutri says so far, it's all been in good fun.

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Image Sharon Stadnik and family.

"People can come up and be friends and vote one way or the other, I mean, it happens all the time," he says. "And husbands and wives...I've seen one spouse come up and put up a red and the other put up a blue right over top, vice versa, I mean, they cancel each other out."

Sharon Stadnik of Bloomington had her son make a brilliant blue mark on her behalf. When asked what the ultimate meaning of the piece might be, she pauses.

"The point of it, I imagine," she says, "would be how everybody's one vote matters, but it turns into a beautiful piece of art when we all get together."

Stadnik may sound like a dreamer, given the nation's apparent political polarization. Some who look at Robert Delutri's interactive work, "The Art of Politics: One Stroke, One Vote" say it means one thing. In Minnesota at least, the presidential race is too close to call.

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