Artistic Activism: Ways Art Encourages Political and Social Reform

words Alexa Wang

Sending a strong political message through the use of art is nothing new. In fact, many aesthetic philosophers have posited that the core function and purpose of art is geared to shift perspectives, change minds and alter perceptions. With this in mind, many artists have leveraged their artwork over the ages to send a clear message to the community with a goal to make positive change.

politics art

What is Artistic Activism?

By its very nature, art in all its many forms is meant to inspire. Creativity and political stances can be profound partners in changing minds and agendas in the social and political arena. However, conventional activism as a stand-alone practice is about asserting a view in vociferous or vigorous ways in order to bring about social or political change. Alternatively, artistic activism tends to have far more finesse and subtlety to it. 

In short, artistic activism eloquently persuades the status quo through stimulating mediums like music, painting, sculpture, poetry, etc. Executed deftly, artistic activism has the power to compel and engage people to rally for change in their communities or for a social or political cause.

The Challenge of Artistic Activism

Unlike conventional activism that typically utilizes strategies, and campaigns to wrangle followers to support a cause – artistic activism is unique in that it lets the art do the campaigning for itself. Art is an elegant way to make a point without necessarily forming assemblies, picket lines or protests.

As such, the target audience for artistic activism can sometimes become blurry. This is because while a work of art may have a clear political statement, the observers may have different mindsets that might misunderstand the underlying statement in the art altogether. Therefore, artists are challenged to magnetize the right people with the right mindset to experience their work in an effort to render social or political change. 

Ways Art Can Produce Change in Society

Understanding that art is viewed or experienced by a variety of different people with different views, artistic activists should strive to get their work in front of the right people in order to shift perspectives. Here are a few unique ways artists can use their creative works to invoke change on multiple levels of society.

Change in the Community

Many artists have seen much success launching art for political reform and social change with their artwork right in their own backyard. There is nothing as effective as uniting a community with art that also has a fundamental statement about creating positive change in the neighborhood.

As an artist, you can streamline your neighborhood artistic activism by using the Nextdoor app. This app allows artists to tap into the heart of community concerns, functions and news. With Nextdoor, artists can publically post notifications about art installments as a way to get the news about sharing social views and appreciating art.

The Nextdoor app is a way for artists to connect with their neighbors, local businesses and public services and announce their art shows in the neighborhood while also sharing political topics with the community. Essentially, this is an ideal way to involve concerned, like minded people who support local artistic activists championing for positive political and social changes in the neighborhood.

Charity Events

More often than not, charity events typically have a social or political impetus. Many artists can take advantage of this by connecting with a charitable function and inquiring if his or her art can be installed at the event. This is a brilliant way to enhance awareness of political art as well as an opportunity to stimulate attendees with thought-provoking artwork.

Alternatively, if you are an artist with the right resources and connections, you could start a charity event of your own. You could display your work and even submit pieces for auction to raise funds for the charity for your cause. Hosting your own charity event with your art with a goal to garner support for political or social justice is an effective way to augment change.

Join an Organization

There are many political organizations artists can join in order to align themselves with their beliefs and passion for reform. For instance, Artists for Democracy is an organization that unites art communities, teachers, students with a vision to preserve democracy through art sales, fundraisers, political discussions, etc.

In closing, whether you are a liberal or conservative, rallying for women’s rights or championing the rights of animals – your art is a catalyst for change. With a little ingenuity and networking, you and your artwork can gather a following that can manifest incredibly positive changes globally, in your community and in social and political circles.


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