How to Use Art to Inspire Change

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“The artivist (artist +activist) uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression – by any medium necessary.” - M.K. Asante put it,

Art has the ability to take on a language that quietly and directly speaks to the person that is experiencing the art. If art has this power to engage people in complex conversations, why doesn't every activist utilize art as a tool? While art is an easy thing to appreciate, for many of us it is a scary thing to create. We have often spent so many years of our lives scared to try it because we think we “aren’t creative” or we simply do not know how to add it to our activist toolbox. The grants featured here show us just some of the diverse ways in which art can create action, and serve as inspiration for us to insert art in our every day work.

Liz Haynes, Be Shameless

Aisha Eveleigh has a mission to inform people about the cruelty of animal agriculture. Because she knows art exhibits can invoke conversations and spark ideas about a particular subject, Aisha has created an art exhibit titled Behind Close Doors, that will tackle the issues around animal agriculture. “Our first project goal is to inspire the public to look deeper into the unethical impact of animal agriculture,” she explains. “Art is a particularly special tool for creating change because it has a non-personal quality. This means it can often get away with being striking and hard-hitting, while allowing a gentle space for it's audience to contemplate.” Aisha is inviting vegan artists to create an experience where attendees will get a chance to interact with ideas around animal agriculture by taking part in workshops, observing artwork and witnessing inspiring talks and performances.

Aisha Eveleigh, Behind Closed Doors an Art Exhibit

Anasa Troutman, based out of Nashville Tennessee, believes that raising women's voices restores the balance needed for our planet and our communities to thrive. She decided to use the art of story telling to create solutions. “For me, storytelling is all about building compassion,” she explains. “When we are able to hear a person’s story, we get a chance to hear who and why they are, we have more room for connection, understanding and compromise.” Building on this philosophy, Anasa founded SheStories, a storytelling platform for women. These stories cultivate deep personal exploration that compels women to express love for themselves, their work, their lives and their communities while being candid about the challenges, pitfalls and hardships they face.

Anasa Troutman - SheStories

California based grantee Sara Trail founded Social Justice Sewing Academy because she saw that youth needed summer programming that would fuse social justice education with culturally relevant curriculum. She uses sewing to bring youth together and engage them in deeper social justice conversations. The Social Justice Sewing Academy’s sewing program “allow[s] young people to create textile art that questions, challenges and strives to indirectly influence existing conditions of inequality and injustices by engaging communities in social transformation,” she explains.

Sara Trail - Social Justice Sewing Academy

The three projects above describe how art has been used to create a space for dialogue or offer tools for self expression and change. Where in your career or personal work can you infuse a little bit of creativity to invoke more dialogue or expression? And, if you find a place where activism can bring about positive change, we’d like to see if we can help get you started:

We salute the 11 other grantees that were funded the past few weeks. We hope they serve you as inspiration in your path to create change for yourself and your communities.

Ana Farías founded Escuela Para Mujeres because in spite of the fact that women living in slums face violence, discrimination, and lack of access to basic rights they are usually the ones who organize among themselves to better deal with their problems. Escuela Para Mujeres is a project that boosts these organizing efforts, so they are better equipped to work together.

Liz Haynes “Be Shameless” is a comic book in India which teaches Indian youth about the body, sex and sexuality without shame or fear.

Pritha Gopalan founded Yalla! in New Jersey. It is software that allows relief agencies and volunteers to customize volunteer participation and effectively support newly-arrived Syrian refugee families in New Jersey.

Sidni Lamb founded New Mexico Leaders in Mindfulness Conference which aims to mentor mindful members of younger generations, while strengthening bonds and maximizing the impact of its more seasoned individuals. Discussions focus on action, with emphasis on leadership development, community interaction and the power of gift economy.

High school student Erin Manuel founded “Reach for the Sun”, a project that designs and installs solar-powered USB device charging stations at her school and at a school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Students will learn about solar energy and one anothers’ cultures while creating a very useful product.

Rory and Tim Townsley started Fresh Food and Veggies Project for the Community of Imperial Beach, a food bank that provides food to the community of Imperial Beach and Coronado, serving over 2,500 people a month.

Catherine Dixon Reigel and Kendra Anne Bouda’s project, the Jane Speaks Initiative, is a Wisconsin-based public history project that explores and documents issues impacting women in American higher education.

Shania Childress founded Shania’s Open Closets for the Homeless, a project that places open closets in local communities and allows people in need to take hygiene items such as toothpaste, sanitizer, feminine products, small blankets and similar items to make it through the day.

Sonya McKinzie founded Girls of Virtue Empowered to provide preteen and teenage girls with resources for building their self confidence, self-respect, and self-awareness about domestic violence, while educating them on how to avoid and deal with abusive situations.

Karen Reid Young Philosophers Society (YPS) is a non-profit organization that offers affordable art, music, academia and a variety of enrichment classes and activities for children and their families.

Noah Hastay knows that that more than 63,780,000 Americans have special needs and these needs add levels of difficulty to daily life activities. That is why he founded FIT for ALL in Gainesville, FL, a program that offers fun and inclusive exercise programs for individuals with special needs.

Roger Quannah founded Setter The Overton Community Gardens to address a substantial need for green space, educational opportunities and quality organic produce among residents.