Artists have often played a key role in social movements in the United States, addressing issues ranging from immigration to sexism to gun violence. Through their expressive talents, artists can challenge cultural narratives, shift imagery and inspire emotions in a way that traditional political methods alone rarely do. In a 2013 essay entitled "Change the Culture, Change the World," artist Favianna Rodriguez puts it this way: "You may attend a rally or vote, but you also read books, listen to music, engage with visual art, turn on the radio and create your identity through culture. Artists are central, not peripheral, to social change. To have the movements that make the wave, you need cultural workers."
Oakland-based dancers Jenay Anolin and Samara Atkins infuse their love for street dance with a social mission: to challenge what they see as the objectification of women in the genre. They started Mix’d Ingrdnts, an all-female, multi-genre, multi-ethnic dance crew as a way to express themselves and their vision of street dance as a form of empowerment and freedom for women and girls.
"I feel that women have a capability to express themselves through their movement, but it doesn't have to be degrading," says Anolin. Atkins says that she had self-image issues growing up, and eventually found a powerful voice in dance. Now Mix'd Ingdnts performs and gives classes around the Bay Area, hoping to inspire the next generation of young women to find confidence through dance.
What role can the arts can play in changing society and culture? Who are artists who you think have created meaningful change?
VIDEO: “Art Activism with Sanaz Mazinani” (KQED Art School)
Sanaz Mazinani is an artist with a background in political activism who uses art to inspire dialogue about perceptions of cultural identity.
VIDEO: “Printmaking with Favianna Rodriguez” (KQED Art School)
Favianna Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary visual artist and community organizer who merges her artistic practice with political activism.
VIDEO: “Hybrid Filmmaking with Ranu Mukherjee”(KQED Art School)
Multimedia artist Ranu Mukherjee talks about her newest piece, Home and the World, which examines cultural hybridity, the aftermath of colonialism, and feminist questions.
Do Next takes the online conversation to the next level: these are suggestions for ways to go out into your community and investigate how the topic featured in this Do Now impacts people’s lives. Use digital storytelling tools and social media to share your story and take action. Make sure to tag your creations with #DoNowArt4Change.
1) Create Your Own Art 4 Change: Create a work of art in any genre that addresses an issue that you feel passionate about and share on social media.
2) Interview an Artist: Research local artists who address social issues in your own community and record an interview with them and share on social media.
3) Tell the Story Behind the Art: Find a piece of art in any genre (music, dance, visual, etc.) that you feel powerfully addresses a social issue. Do some research about the artist, their motivations for creating the art, and what you feel the impact of their work is. Share the story on Instagram.
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