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Volume 30, Number 6
November/December 2014

Social Justice Art for Educators

Three key activities for creating activist art with teens


Sitting in the quiet of the museum’s classroom, Kyle and I talked for the first time. With an audio recorder between us, we discussed his interest in signing up for a class on activist art, his views on social change, and his opinions about the role of art in society. He answered my questions with a twinge of nonchalance—as if I were asking the obvious.
“Why might artists make works of art about social issues or problems?”

“To show a different way.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, you can always talk about different problems and stuff, but with art you can express it through different … like, I don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it … Like with art you can express it through different views, put it in picture form.”

“Why would an artist want to do that?”

“Because some voices are not heard.”
Returning to the classroom after a summer filled with news reports about police brutality, negative stereo­typing of black and brown youth, and dramatically increasing economic division in our society, Kyle’s point resonates. What if we did listen to what young people were teaching us? What if their voices were heard? What new kind of world could we build?

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


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