In 2009, the Center for Artistic Activism saw artists struggling to affect change, but without the practical skills to implement their visions. Elsewhere we saw frustrated activists, repeating their traditional marches, petition drives, and vigils until they became frustrated and moved on. We saw movements for social change stagnating with wins coming more by luck than planning. The Center for Artistic Activism started bringing these practices together to transform art and activism, using the best of each to leverage creativity and culture and successfully bring about social change.
From our very beginning we identified the fields of culture, art and creativity as key to social justice work because these elements create opportunities for people marginalized from other spheres of influence such as law, politics and business to use their own unique perspectives to gain power, representation and real political change. But we knew creativity wasn’t enough. Training and organization is key. Our decade of experience and research has evolved into theory, curricula, and programs for activists and artists to fully understand how to effectively deploy artistic activism methodologies and win campaigns.
We aim to work where we’re needed most and ten years later we have trained and mentored over 1500 artists and activists around the world across a range of issues. We’ve worked with avant-garde artists in Russia and art students in public High Schools in NYC, undocumented youth immigration activists in South Texas and Sex Work advocates in South Africa, Muslim-American activists in New York, Iraq War Veterans in Chicago, and mothers of incarcerated youth in Houston. We’ve worked on state corruption with artists from the Western Balkans and West Africa, making tax laws more just in Massachusetts, and expanding access to healthcare for marginalized communities in East Africa and across Eastern Europe. And more.
We’ve advised and trained arts and social justice organizations and the supporting funders on the best practices of combining arts and activism. We help staff and members of organizations like Open Society Foundation, Greenpeace, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philanthropy New York, and others understand how to promote and support high-quality artistic activism projects, artworks and campaigns.
Through innovative research and providing free resources we’ve helped build, sustain, and develop the field of artistic activism. We’ve built a user-generated database of case studies (at actipedia.org), produced a podcast on using pop culture for progressive politics, provided a webinar series, published interviews with artistic activists, staged street experiments, developed interactive assessment tools, given lectures and served as experts on artistic activism for press, governmental and non-governmental bodies, and published widely on artistic activism theory and practice. We have built a global network of practitioners and researchers in the field of artistic activism and work to institute and sustain the study of artistic activism as an effective and affective practice.
It is our dream to reach every artist in such a way that they instinctively ask: How can I make my work more effective in creating the change I want to see? And to reach every activist, so that they ask: How can I make my action more creative so that it can more profoundly affect my audience? And then provide the resources so these artistic activists can answer their questions for themselves and know how to use their creativity and passion to make lasting impact.
“This is the training I’ve been wanting to take but didn’t know existed.”School for Creative Activism participant
“This training is life-affirming, it insists that artists can affect actual change, and gives us the tools.”Art Action Academy participant
“Thank you. I have watched every episode… Grateful for what you are teaching. Better than any class I took in grad school.”Center for Artistic Activism Webinar viewer
Who we are
Research Director, Co-Founder
Program Director, Unstoppable Voters
Artistic Director, Co-Founder
Director of Finance, HR and Admin
Research and Communications Manager