Button, Button: This Northside Activist Is Making Tiny Political Works of Art

Walz with the buttonmaker. Kimberly Walz’s first political activism was campaigning for the bluegill to be Illinois’ state fish in 1986. She was a fifth grader in Freeport, Illinois, when she realized she could use her creative talents (and blue markers) to bring about change. And her side won against the forces of the carp. The bluegill is Illinois’ state fish. Her activism was inspired by her mother’s interest in politics. She remembers going with her mother to the polling place to vote on election days. Since that political awakening, Walz has worked on many political campaigns. In 2016, she founded and ran Illinois Women for Hillary for the Clinton campaign. Today, in addition to her full-time corporate job (as regional director for state and local government relations for Walgreen’s) and a graphic design side hustle, she’s a co-founder of Illinois Women Vote for 2020. She also is creating original campaign buttons for sale by the 46th Ward Biden-Harris office. Some of her buttons are simply Biden-Harris, Hope or Joe buttons. But others carry slogans like No Malarkey, Joe Make America Kind Again Make America Intelligent Again I Pay More Taxes Than Donald Trump It’s the Dead Bodies, Stupid The two-inch buttons are priced at two for $5. She also makes bedazzled or jeweled buttons and Ruth Bader Ginsburg buttons that say I Dissent and are decorated with a bit of lace fabric. These jeweled and lace buttons are $5 each. Walz described how she uses spools of one-inch lace trim but has to cut the lace into a narrower size to create the RBG-collar look. "I sit in front of the TV and cut lace collars," she says. She makes most of the buttons herself but also has help from volunteers in the Biden-Harris office. She estimates they’ve sold about 400 buttons so far. Some buttons have been sold to out-of-town visitors and even to a visitor from Delaware, who said she couldn’t find Biden buttons in her home state (which is also Biden’s home state). If you’re interested in buying the special political buttons, you can visit the 46th Ward Biden-Harris office, 4527 N. Sheridan between Montrose and Wilson. It’s open every day from 11am to 7pm. You can also email Walz and arrange a purchase. Walz’ parents were a nurse and a teacher and she grew up seeing a commitment to public service. She says after her mother died in early 2016, she decided she only wanted to do things that had meaning and that inspired her to work on the Clinton campaign. A Lakeview resident, she’s also serving as president of the 46th Ward Democrats. Earlier in her career, she worked for Mike Quigley for 10 years, as district director and deputy chief of staff for his Congressional office and before that as his chief of staff and director of policy analysis when he was Cook County commissioner. In her Walgreen’s job, she’s working now on the launch of COVID-19 testing locations in collaboration with state and local governments. The first testing locations will be in Walgreen's store parking lots and drive-thrus.
Picture of the author
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.