Visual Art

Activist art is generally created or shared in public spaces ranging from galleries and museums to pavements and buildings.

Street art, or guerrilla art, is perhaps the most widely recognised example of art-as-activism, created for maximum public visibility: on buildings, streets, and other publicly viewed surfaces.

Often anonymous, and often displayed through an illegal act, for example through defacing a building, it is a controversial medium in which the artist expresses views and opinions to make a public statement about the society in which they live. In this way often the activism lies in the act of creating the art itself, as much as from its subject matter, but there are plenty of ways to use art to make a statement that promotes social change without breaking the law.

With the four questions in mind, find out more by browsing the following short films and articles, and consider how you would respond to those questions in the context of visual art:


Art as Activism – Kate DeCiccio

Artist, activist, and educator Kate DeCiccio believes that art can be a powerful tool for self-reflection, for resistance, and for building community. One of her poster creations was highly visible at the Women’s March on Washington, to which she also brought a large artwork in her continuing series addressing the effects of police brutality.

Street art with a message of hope and peace – eL Seed

What does this gorgeous street art say? It’s Arabic poetry, inspired by bold graffiti and placed where a message of hope and peace can do the most good. In this quietly passionate talk, artist and TED Fellow eL Seed describes his ambition: to create art so beautiful it needs no translation.

How Banksy remains one of pop culture’s most mysterious celebrities

Banksy is an anonymous England-based street artist, vandal, political activist, and film director, active since the 1990s. The work of Banksy shocks, provokes and forces many to stop in their tracks. But what makes the street artist all the more fascinating is that his identity remains a mystery. This film asks how and why?

How painting can transform communities

Artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn create community art by painting entire neighbourhoods, and involving those who live there — from the favelas of Rio to the streets of North Philadelphia. What’s made their projects succeed? In this talk, the artists explain their art-first approach — and the importance of a neighbourhood barbecue.

Zaria Forman: Drawings that show the beauty and fragility of Earth

Zaria Forman’s large-scale compositions of melting glaciers, icebergs floating in glassy water and waves cresting with foam explore moments of transition, turbulence and tranquility. Join her as she discusses the meditative process of artistic creation and the motivation behind her work. “My drawings celebrate the beauty of what we all stand to lose,” she says. “I hope they can serve as records of sublime landscapes in flux.”

Chris Jordan: Turning powerful stats into art

Artist Chris Jordan shows us an arresting view of what Western culture looks like. His supersized images picture some almost unimaginable statistics — like the astonishing number of paper cups we use every single day.


10 Stunning Activist Street Art Examples That Prove Imagination & Creativity Can Change The World

With movements combating racial injustice, climate change, economic inequality, and so many other forms of oppression capturing global attention, the power of art in these movements should not be underestimated; art has been used as a form of activism throughout history, and often serves as an accessible way to convey messages to those who experience it. Here>

Artivism: art as activism, activism as art

Art can be a powerful tool for activists. It can grapple with the world and bring about change. This piece explores some of the artivism on display at AWID 2016. Here>

Activist Art: Art that works

Activist art is, by definition, historically specific.  It aims to address particular cultural, political and social concerns with a view to producing concrete social change.  This article considers what makes for effective activist art and asks how visual thinkers might better use our training in the current cultural and political dialogs. Here> 

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