Why support artistic activism right now?

Increasingly, we are hearing from artists in our network in the U.S and around the world that they want to use their creative skills to promote social and environmental justice. However, art schools often don’t provide the training to help them do this effectively, and so they are seeking to build their knowledge and practice in this area.

Activists have also been saying that traditional advocacy isn’t working, and that their colleagues are getting tired of using the same techniques to fight huge battles. They want to use more creative tactics, and understand that changing culture works to help change policy, but they’re not sure how to do this effectively, and long-term at scale.

And why support the Center for Artistic Activism in particular?

The Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA) is a 10-year-old nonprofit dedicated to helping artists, activists and everyone else maximize their impact and efficacy in bringing about social change. Through our pioneering trainings, mentoring and research, we help people understand how to effectively, and creatively, use their own skills to create the change they want to see.

Here’s what we have done in the past year:

This year we made an effort to address our biggest weakness – our capacity to reach all the people who want our help. Because we’re a very small team, we can only reach so many people each year. To change this we initiated Macedonia and West African Academies for Creative Activism, helping local artists and activists develop and run their own artistic activism training programs to help citizens fight corruption through culture.We’re using this model to expand our reach everywhere.

A short video about one of our trainings in Macedonia. It gives a good sense for how our training works, and what it accomplishes.

We also grew our team, adding two part-time staff so we can be more responsive and available to all of the artists, activists, grantmakers and organizations who want to know how to use creative activism to make their work more effective (and more fun).

Webinars and podcasts allow us to reach more people in an ongoing way. We reached more people than ever with 9 new free training webinars, and launched a podcast mini-series on the basics of Artistic Activism at the end of October.

We published interviews with creative activists from around the world in our alumni network, and provided new opportunities for over 6000 global activists and artists to connect and share resources and skills.

Our online tool, Actipedia.org is an open-access, community-generated wiki to document, share, and inspire Creative Activism. This year we both expanded and improved that database.

To change how Artistic Activism is cultivated and supported, we trained and mentored over 70 Human Right Grantmakers from around the world who fund social justice campaigns and want to support more creative activism. We also mentored and supported artists through our Artistic Activism Grant Program. We funded and guided five South African artists as they conceived of and implemented creative projects aimed at challenging stigma around sex workers rights.

Through our Artistic Activism Accelerator Program, we mentored advocacy groups working on equal access to medicines, harm reduction in the opioid crisis, and human rights in the U.S, South Africa, and The Netherlands. This is on-the-ground assistance with developing campaigns and pulling them off in real world situations.

We conducted groundbreaking research into the impact of creative activism, including the first ever public Creative Activism Experiment on the comparative efficacy and afficacy of artistic activism vs more traditional forms of activist intervention.

The Aefficacy Whitepaper analyzed and summarized the past 9 years of in-depth interviews we have done with artists and activists, and organizes the ways that they create and assess their projects, providing insight into what successful artistic activism looks like.

We have also completed user experience prototypes on our Aeffect App, a digital tool for artists and activists to conduct their own self-assessment to understand the impact of their work.

One of the things that people have said about our work with them this year:

“We’re blown away by what you did for us. You helped us move away from the same old activist strategies and have really meaningful, effective conversations. And it was fun! Which is critical to protect against burn-out. Working with you was a great reboot and recharge, and we want you to come train all of our staff and partners.”

– Annette Gaudino, HCV/HIV Project Co-Director, Treatment Action Group

Some of other collaborators, alumni and colleagues sent in videos. Some short clips here:

So What’s Next?

Next year we turn 10 years old! We are a “tween”. And we have big plans and a big vision for what we’re going to accomplish in the next 10 years.

We plan to:

  1. Train! Provide tools, training and resources for thousands of global artists and activists to use to implement and improve their creative activism. These include a new short-form video series, guidebooks, and our How to Win book.
  2. Multiply the Impact!: Launch the first two international Academies for Creative Activism, in the western Balkans and in West Africa. These totally new frameworks will help people train their own communities to do effective creative action work, around anti-corruption, human rights, access to medicines, and gender equality.
  3. Show How and Why It Works! Conduct and publish research to understand the true impact of artistic activism, and provide Creative Action Impact tools to enable individuals and groups (you!) to self-assess the impact of their creative activism projects.
  4. Connect!: Further activate our global network of over 1500 practitioners, so that they can help eachother through sharing success stories and skills.

These are the first steps in our 10-year plan to completely transform activism and advocacy work, by helping those working for social and environmental justice understand how to best use culture, art and creativity to create lasting change.

Help Us Train More Artists and Activists

If you want to help the Center for Artistic Activism continue to support more artists and activists, please donate. Your contributions really help.