More than ever in our tumultuous society, art can no longer exist parallel to activism, but must be woven into our efforts to construct a better world. We offer the following conversations on the role of art in fostering social change. This video content was provided courtesy of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia, PA.
Cohabitation Strategies on the Role of the Arts in Fostering Social Change
Urbanists and cultural activists Miguel Robles-Durán and Lucia Babina of Cohabitation Strategies develop unique community-based projects that use art as a platform to engender social change. Here, they discuss how their collaborative artistic practices empower urban communities “to imagine a new world.”
Artist Bob and Roberta Smith on Art as Advocacy
“Objects are very vulnerable when people have forgotten their stories,” says artist Bob and Roberta Smith, when asked to speak on art and advocacy. Known for his use of slogans and campaign tactics, Smith explains that when artists extend the life of an artwork through storytelling, “that story can be the artwork.”
Choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar on Art and Social Justice
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, choreographer and founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women, discusses how her practice intertwines with issues of social justice. “For me, it’s a very deep and long practice and way of thinking,” she says. Zollar discusses the necessity for artists to examine their own class or race assumptions when working in a community: “If they’re unexamined, then that colors the work that I do. If they’re examined…then we both grow, and on the exit…hopefully, we both are stronger,” she says.
Claire Tancons, Independent Curator, On Resistance and Artistic Practice
Pew Center visiting scholar, Kristy Edmunds and curator Claire Tancons discuss the complex issue of institutional resistance among artists of particular backgrounds. Tancons argues that artists of African descent who refrain from participating in certain artistic practices, because they fear they may be “pigeon-holed and ghettoized,” may miss opportunities to be a part of the larger discourse around performance art. She encourages these artists to “open up the frame…to reclaim these territories and actually fully embody them…because we are losing so much.”
Header image: Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge neighborhood convening, June 29, 2015 in Philadelphia. Photo by Steve Weinik, courtesy of Mural Arts Philadelphia.