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Feeling the Bern in Roscoe

Oct 3, 2019

Linda Roesch's Bernie-blue couch returns for another presidential election.

On a residential street in Roscoe (pop. 299), a weathered sofa stands as a solitary curb appeal for a President Bernie Sanders. As blue as its surrounding environs are red, the couch — now in its second Sanders campaign — has spurned conversations, if not many sit-downs — around Roscoe and online.

We caught up with resident sofa artist Linda Roesch to discuss the state of political sofa art in South Dakota.

Q: Why a sofa?

A: It was what I had. It kind of came about really fast. It was probably about three weeks before the [2016] South Dakota primaries and my brother and I had just gotten some different living room furniture and I'm going to take it to the dump in a couple of days and we just both kind of got the idea that, you know what, we can paint this and make it an art piece instead of just throwing it out. 

At the time, I guess I didn't really intend on keeping it for this long. I mostly thought that at some point the snow would probably demolish it. And then two winters went by and nothing seemed to be happening. So I've repainted it a little bit. I changed the year from 2016 to 2020 to make it more current. At one point the city wanted me to haul it away. We had to go before city council and explained that it was an art piece and not, you know, junk old furniture. 

Now this has become current one more time and we'll probably leave it up over the winter again and see if the snow makes it collapse or if it's good for one more season. 

Q: Have many people driven by just to take a look?

A: Yeah, we get a lot of people that stop and take pictures. Right now I'm teaching up in Jamestown, North Dakota, so I'm not around very much. But [my brother] says that at least probably twice a month somebody will stop and take a picture. The reactions from the locals have been amazingly positive — at least what I've heard. Even people who are not fans of the person think it's kind of an interesting piece. It's sort of become part of the city, I guess, whether they want it to or not. 

Q: Does it ever lead to conversations, about politics or the piece itself?

A: I'm not really there that much. I don't get a chance to really talk to the people who stop too frequently. Early on, in 2016, the night that I was painting it outside, one of the people from town was driving by and he stopped and it was just a blue sofa at that point. He engaged in conversation asking if I was doing any going door to door and campaigning for anyone. I was kind of apprehensive because I wasn't sure where this conversation was leading. Anyway, after a few minutes, this person indicated that he really liked Bernie Sanders and he had wanted to host a watch party, but he wasn't able to find anyone interested in the community. He indicated that he was kind of surprised that more people locally weren't onboard with Bernie's message and the things that he wanted to accomplish. So that that time it did lead to a very good discussion with someone in the community I never would've had that discussion with in any other way. 

Q: If somebody in the neighborhood painted a bigger, grander, red #MAGA couch, would you get swept up into a couch competition? 

A: Probably not. At this point, if someone wants to do that, great. It's free speech. I would probably laugh about it.

Michael Zimny is the social media engagement specialist for South Dakota Public Broadcasting in Vermillion. He blogs for SDPB and contributes arts columns to the South Dakota Magazine website.


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