The pervasive nature of systematic racism has gained a spotlight in the past few years. This is mainly due to the onslaught of recorded videos shedding a light on it, as well as the communicative power of social media. Numerous groups and organizations have found ways to contribute to related revolutionary causes. One group, in particular, has made a surprisingly prevalent impact. That group is visual artists, many of whom have become fervent activists for the cause. For those wondering how these individuals could possibly help, here are a few ways visual artists have been contributing to revolutionary movements.
The most direct way artists are contributing to revolutionary movements is through donations. While not all artists have the funds to afford this option, several prominent ones have been giving to numerous causes. Most do this by donating a percentage of a piece’s profits. In many cases, these pieces generate more money by advertising the intended donation. One example of this is Ashley Longshore, who created a memorializing portrait of Breonna Taylor. She was able to donate thirty-three thousand and five hundred dollars from her profits to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Another example is a popular Japanese artist who created a series of six pieces about Black Lives Matter. 100% of the funds from these pieces are being donated to related organizations.
Using Social Media
In modern times, social media has become a pinnacle of outreach and communication. Also, people thousands of miles apart can find and speak to one another in a matter of seconds. This is why revolutionary movements have begun flocking to social media. Artists are able to do so as well by sharing pieces online. While it may not result in much revenue, this method ensures that the piece is viewed by substantial amounts of people from all over. If revenue is needed, an artist can still share a preview and a statement of personal belief.
Some of the most emblematic symbols of revolutionary movements are victims of injustice. Largely known examples of this are George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and the aforementioned Breonna Taylor, all of whom were killed through police brutality. These individuals directly suffered at the hands of the system being fought against, which therefore makes each one a purveying symbol to uphold. Unfortunately, it can be easy for those outside the movement to forget such tragedies soon after one occurs. This is another area where artists can make a difference. Many in the field have begun making portraits of these victims, many of which are inescapably public. For instance, numerous paintings of George Floyd have begun appearing on the walls of public buildings, most being so large that the image is hard to avoid. These pieces keep the memory of the lost individuals alive, as well as the revolutionary drive that accompanies each injustice.
While revolutionary movements aren’t known for giving money to supporters, artists have the ability to award those that follow these causes. This is an encouragement, particularly since a small art piece is unlikely to change someone’s social views. Those that receive these pieces are also already in these movements. For example, one artist is sending small paintings to people that donated at least fifty dollars to fight police brutality. This act is a selfless use of time for the artists and a way to thank those who are also being selfless.
One thing art has a unique ability to do is express complex emotions. While many have a hard time listening to the words of others, simply seeing a piece of art can say more than a voice. For example, a well-known street artist premiered a new piece of art depicting a complex statement on American racism. Its most pressing image is a vigil candle burning the American flag. This picture has the ability to portray a deeper sense of sadness and betrayal than most words can. Those who view the art may come away with a fuller understanding of a social justice movement. It may not be able to change those entrenched in an opposing belief, but it can inspire greater dedication to a certain cause.
A large portion of society views art as frivolous, particularly pieces that are out of the mainstream. It is seen as a somewhat selfish task. However, artists have proven to be more powerful than could be imagined, particularly in terms of social justice. Many are dedicating time, energy, and money to victims of injustice that doesn’t reap any personal reward. If anything, these actions show why art has remained relevant for so many centuries. It speaks to people in a way few things can. In modern times, this power holds an importance that is difficult to refute.