Bernie Sanders gets an artistic boost in Boston

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BOSTON – While Donald Trump has plenty of branded items – a line of steak, a cologne brand, spring water and 268 others to his name – Massachusetts voters are creating their own fan art for Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential contender from Vermont.

Sanders, the Green Mountain State’s junior U.S. senator, has recently inspired a “Lil’ Bernie Doll” created by a seamstress from Ludlow, Massachusetts, and a nationally touring exhibit of work from nearly 40 artists opens in Boston Friday.

The free show, “The Art of a Political Revolution,” displays works from around the country. The exhibit debuted in Los Angeles last month and will run in a South Boston gallery through Sunday. Hours at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter, 100 West 2nd St., are a reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The works are inspired by campaign issues highlighted by Sanders, such as income inequality, climate change, racial justice, immigration and affordable education, according to the event website. Proceeds from sales of artwork will be donated to self-proclaimed democratic socialist’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Shepard Fairey, whose “Hope for Change” image became an unofficial symbol of President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, is also featured in the show. He endorsed Sanders in a video released by the campaign Wednesday.

Fairey faced copyright-infringement claims from the Associated Press for his “Hope” image, which he admitted in 2012 was based on a freelance photographer’s picture of Obama published by the news service. Fairey settled with AP and in a related criminal case was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine for destroying documents and trying to conceal his use of the photo, according to the Artsbeat blog of the New York Times.

Emily Engel with a Lil' Bernie doll (Cloverleaf Imaging).

Emily Engel with a Lil’ Bernie doll. (Photo courtesy Cloverleaf Imaging)

Emily Engel, a small business owner and seamstress in the central Massachusetts town, has been creating her 18-inch “Lil’ Bernie Doll” since September, selling 150 of the creations and donating $2,700 to the Sanders campaign within the first week.

“I knew I wanted to support the campaign any way I could, and what better way than a needle and thread?” Engel wrote on her website.

“I didn’t intend to start this. It was on a lark,” she said in an interview Friday. “The support system is so strong. People who love Bernie love grassroots – people from the bottom up. There are so many of us. That was a motivator.”

With thousands of customers on the waiting list for one of the handmade dolls, Engel says she likely won’t open up orders again until March.

“I’m tempted to make a Trump doll,” she wrote about the Republican presidential contender. “However, it would be strictly marketed as a chew toy for large dogs with very sharp teeth!”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.