Art project asks Cedar Rapids residents if capitalism works

Artist hopes to start discussion; exhibit to open June 21 at CSPS

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A 20-foot-long sign with the word capitalism in flashing lights is making its way around Cedar Rapids, asking residents whether they believe the economic system works for them.

"It's important (to address this) because not often are we able to take on this question,” said Steve Lambert, the artist behind the project, which popped up at the New Bo City Market on June 16.

The project moved to the parking lot of The Flamingo restaurant Monday and a full exhibit featuring the sign and video responses will open June 21 at CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE in Cedar Rapids, and run through Aug. 11. A welcome reception open to the public will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday at CSPS Hall.

The capitalism sign has made its way across the country, with a similar project springing up in Europe. The tour began in Cleveland in 2011 and has made stops in Boston, Santa Fe and Los Angeles among other U.S. cities and will debut in New York City's Times Square this fall.

Lambert said it was important for him to talk with people in large and small cities to get a strong mix of opinions. And throughout his travels, he has found that there isn't a black or white answer.

"A lot of people want a third button because they have mixed feelings," he said, giving an example of a Cedar Rapids special education teacher who visited the public art piece on Sunday. "She had a good job, health care — so things worked for her. But she would have to bring food in for her students because they don't have enough to eat."

Lambert added whether residents voted true or false, they usually gave many qualifiers about their answers. "People have told me these heartbreaking reasons for why they voted false — about how they're working hard and things just aren't coming together."

The purpose of the project, Lambert said, is to start a discussion. Because if people evaluate what is and isn't working about capitalism then maybe they can find a way to improve it.

To find out more about the project, visit

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