An inspiring visual guide to making activism more creative with art and art more effective with activism. The Steves’ humorous and playful approach to artistic activism has me ready to get out in the streets and cause some good trouble. I found a ton to steal in this book, and so will you.—Austin Kleon, New York Times bestselling author of Steal Like an Artist
About the Book
Here, in dazzling red and black words and pictures, is an all-purpose guide that shows how to bring about effective social change by combining the emotional power of the arts with the strategic planning of activism. Join the co-founders of the Center for Artistic Activism as they draw lessons from pop culture and mainstream marketing, delve into explorative teachings on ethics and evaluation, and set out the promises and pitfalls of the creative process and utopian thinking.
The Art of Activism brings together the authors’ extensive practical knowledge—gleaned from over a decade’s experience training activists around the world—with theoretical insights from fields as far-ranging as cultural studies and cognitive science.
From the United Farm Workers’ boycott movement in sixties’ California to a canal-side beach in present-day Saint Petersburg, these pages are packed with contemporary and historical case studies that have been shown to work in practice.
In addition, the accompanying workbook contains fifty expertly crafted exercises to help you flex your creative imagination and hone your political tactics, taking you step-by-step toward becoming the most persuasive and impactful artistic activist you can possibly be.
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368 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-269-6 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-270-2
100% of profits go to supporting the Center for Artistic Activism’s mission and furthering artistic activism worldwide!
Artists and Activists who want to collaborate often find they are like two peoples separated by different languages. Steve and Steve offer a kind of hands-on, highly participatory translation service which brings them together and draws out the strengths of both to achieve beautiful and powerful results.Nathan Santry, Actions Director, Greenpeace USA
All roads to lasting change lead through the intersection of art and activism. Too often this truth gets lost in sector jargon, undervalued skill sets and other nonsense. Here is a useful tool for anyone interested in social change to become well versed in creative problem solving and marshaling the talents of both artists and activists.Risë Wilson, founder of the Laundromat Project
All true art is a form of activism, and the best, most enduring activism rises to the level of art. Here’s a thrilling invitation and actionable playbook for anyone willing to retrieve their autonomy, open minds, and fight the power.Douglass Rushkoff, bestselling author of Team Human and Media Virus
A Look Inside the Art of Activism
Effective activism always involves expanding people’s imaginations—you need to be able to envision a different world before you can fight to change the status quo. This informative and irreverent guidebook from two revered veterans of creative campaigning, explores the process of opening hearts and minds using images, words, spectacles, and deeds. Read it so we can usher in a society that is more fair, beautiful and free.Astra Taylor, author and filmmaker
Hanging out with Steve and Steve is a whirlwind of stimulating ideas, creative inspiration, practical advice, and a few laughs too. Their book captures exactly that mix.The Yes Men – theyesmen.org
The Steve’s and the C4AA have created a global sandbox for artists, activists and all those passionate about social justice to play in and experiment with strategies for social change. This playbook offers theoretical knowledge, practical experience and much needed inspiration for all those moving towards utopia.Ishtar Lakhani, South African Social Justice Advocate
About the Authors
Steve (Stephen) Duncombe and Steve Lambert are co-founders of the Center for Artistic Activism, a non-profit research and training organization devoted to helping activists create more like artists and artists to strategize more like activists. Over the past decade, the pair has done research, developed curriculum, and mentored and trained thousands of artistic activists across the United States as well as in 17 countries around the world. They’ve worked alongside local artistic activists on issues from the human rights of sex-workers in South Africa, to corruption in the Western Balkans, to access to healthcare for trans people in Eastern Europe, and racial and economic issues in the United States.
A lifelong activist, Duncombe’s NYC community organization has been recognised for its creative activism by the Abbie Hoffman Foundation. Currently a professor of Media and Culture at New York University, Duncombe has published six books and countless articles on the intersection of culture and politics, most notably Dream or Nightmare: Reimagining Politics in an Age of Fantasy, and the Cultural Resistance Reader.
An internationally recognized artist, Lambert’s public projects have appeared in Times Square, cities around the United States, and in London and Melbourne. He is featured in four documentary films and over two dozen books. He’s worked alongside the Yes Men and Greenpeace, and won awards from the Art Matters Foundation, Prix Ars Electronica, and Creative Work Fund. Lambert is a professor of New Media at Purchase College, the State University of New York’s public arts college.
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If you are a campaign leader or non-profit manager, you will know how difficult it is to keep your volunteers and activist workers and partners motivated when trying to shift what may seem like immovable beliefs and enduring problems. Introducing creative strategies in our work made all the difference. From feeling like we were making small, shallow changes that kept getting rolled back, and fighting for attention, we were having fun, AND making progress. Our mission was clearer, and we were able to recognise opportunities and tools in the terrain we were in, working for the future we wanted. The Center for Artistic Activism’s approach made all the difference to our team.Sally Shackleton, Frontline AIDS
If you are a troublemaker and want advice from professional troublemakers about how to make trouble more effectively, this book is for you. The two Steves have distilled years of their own personal experience working with artists and activists around the globe and combined that with interviews with some of their favorite rebels. Working collectively with others, they’ve changed AIDS policy in South Africa, gotten out the vote in the 2020 US election, and helped make COVID vaccines more accessible. This book shares their trade secrets so that the Davids of the world can slay many GoliathsDread Scott, Artist