Artists As Activists

Can art change the world? History and current examples show that it can, and the effects are profound. Artists As Activists (AAA), one of Bay’s interdisciplinary courses, integrates political, social and art history with hands-on studio art experiences to explore the ways in which the arts are a tool for social change. AAA students have worked for several weeks to create their final projects of the term that artistically represent issues that they care deeply about, and the results have been phenomenal.

For her final project, Sydney ’18 explored the issue of body image and social media, and the negative effects that this issue can have on young women. She says,”For my final project, I researched how girls are influenced by negative body image at such a young age. Because I am a young woman on multiple social media platforms, I have also been affected, so I know that it is a real issue. The little girl in my piece is clear because she is pure and open to the opportunities life has to offer. She is looking at a woman who has internalized the negative comments that have been targeted at her.

I want my installation to inform the viewer about the label ‘ideal body’ society introduces to women and how beauty is not only about body shape. Even though it may not be obvious, some girls are aware of this issue and are already worried about the shape of their bodies in elementary school.”Sydney’s installation beautifully captures the jarring reality of a topic that impacts millions of women each year.
Clara ’17 focused her project on the very serious issue of overpopulation. Her goal was to “urge people to consider their own knowledge about overpopulation and give them the sense of where we are headed so that they are motivated to consider their impact on the problem and discuss solutions.” In order to get this message across in a visual art form, Clara created a large painting on canvas and displayed it near the lockers so students couldn’t help but see it.
She says, “I chose to create a scene of complexity breaking into nothingness in hopes of showing the viewer where we are headed and what we might say in hindsight.  However, I struggled to balance my piece: making it clearly about overpopulation but also slightly unclear so as to be sticky and thought-provoking.  I ended up mixing both abstract and identifiable objects to show evidence of overpopulation and increased complexity, and I integrated some quotes and facts discretely into the chaos since they were so powerful.”
Abbey ’18 decided to take a different approach to her final project by promoting happiness and creating a stress-free, child-like environment. Understanding the stress that students can often feel as they approach their final exams, Abbey created an exhibit for students to write on the walls, play hop-scotch and hug a mannequin covered in fuzzy balls, all while being surrounded positives quotes and reminders to smile, laugh and just generally enjoy life.
Abbey describes her installation, “For my final project, I chose to look at smiling, and trying to get people to smile more through my art. I focused on exploring fashion design and incorporating it with my topic and used many medias in the process. In some ways, I was able to incorporate painting, drawing, and sculpture into my installation. I was inspired by my childhood happiness and incorporating that into my theme of smiling more. I got this idea when I noticed how negative students’ attitudes are towards school and the stress that comes along with it. So, I wanted to change that and make people happy about something in the school environment, especially during stressful finals week!”
 Artists and activists like Sydney, Clara and Abbey are capable of influencing change through their art.  Whether it be a serious message or playful escapism, and we are proud to give Bay students the space, guidance, and resources needed to discover how to do exactly that.