A couple years ago, Center for Artistic Activism Executive Director Rebecca Bray started to research what social scientists tell us about the powers of art. She dug into the literature looking at the role art and creativity play in our world. Rebecca wanted to put words to the things deep down we know, but have a hard time grasping or expressing. What she came back with was a concentrated series of sentences that had all of us nodding our heads and muttering “yes, yes, yes.” These Powers of Art are now regularly shared in our workshops and referenced in our presentations and conversations.

  1. Art helps humans express feelings and ideas that are difficult to put into words.
  2. Art creates purpose and meaning.
  3. Art connects people through shared experiences.
  4. Art helps new ideas resonate through personal, relevant stories.
  5. Art distills complex problems and poses new questions.
  6. Art challenges habits and entrenched ideas through surprise and cognitive dissonance.
  1. Art frames familiar problems in new ways.
  2. Art engages, enchants, and invites participation.
  3. Art provides opportunities for synthesis and personal meaning-making.
  4. Art engages all of the senses, and transforms the ways we make sense of the world.
Red Lightning Bolt

Why is this important? Because people forget.

When an art work moves us, we know, feel, and understand its power. It could be a song or a poem that encapsulates a feeling we couldn’t put into a words. Or it could be being the feeling of awe brought on by The Barbenheimer on an IMAX screen this past summer. Either way, we recognize art’s power. But that lightening bolt of recognition is often just a flash. It can fade away. And who can blame us? Art and culture do so much, it’s hard to hold it all in our minds at once.

At any moment in time we all can have trouble remembering one, two, or a handful of the Powers of Art, so this list is helpful to have nearby as a reminder. Maybe more so for the other people in your life who may see it – who need to see it; collaborator, colleagues, family, maybe supervisors or funders. Because when you know the powers of art, it’s clear: to be relevant and resonant, art needs activism and activism needs art.

Art Needs Activism. Activism Needs Art.

Donors to the Center for Artistic Activism receive gifts like this Powers of Art print.