The Art Inside #OccupyWallStreet

Posted by Amanda Alef On October - 31 - 2011

The art of signs used at #OWS (photo from

Throughout history art has been fundamentally intertwined with social movements and political activism and it continually serves as a critical avenue through which to question, comment on, and influence change in the world around it. And this time around is no exception.

While the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to gain momentum, the arts have become a unique tool in the movement’s development and have played a central role in the creative expression of the movement’s message.

On any given day the artistic pulse of the movement can be witnessed through the countless cardboard signs on display throughout downtown Manhattan’s Zuccoti Park, as well as the emergence of a screenprinting lab, daily open stage performances, and the constant presence of musicians who add song to the movement’s message.

Only fourteen days after protesters began occupying, the formation of the Arts and Culture Committee emerged as a subcommittee of the movement’s general assembly. This collection of painters, graphic designers, musicians, art students, and more, represents the creative voices of the movement and have been working to support the peaceful occupation of Liberty Square and to foster participation in the creation of cultural work that amplifies the movement’s message. Read the rest of this entry »

Why I Do the Work: Virtues, Bones, & Tolerance

Posted by Naomi Natale On July - 28 - 2011

Naomi Natale

Last September, I went to East San Jose Elementary School here in my hometown of Albuquerque, NM. While there I spoke with over 200 fourth and fifth grade students in six classes.

For the three weeks before I visited, the students had been studying “virtues” under the guidance of their teacher, Amy Sweet, who heard about One Million Bones, loves the project, and wanted to bring it into her classroom.

Together we began the lesson by asking the students about their virtues — which ones they possess, which ones their friends possess, etc. — and asking what acts they do that show them off. We then asked the question,  “How do we find the virtues in people that we don’t really like?”

All of us together decided that virtues are very much like bones, that though we cannot see them we know that they exist and that they make us who we are. We also decided that EVERYBODY has virtues just like EVERYBODY has bones. And then we began the process of art-making. Read the rest of this entry »

WTF? (or in other words…Where’s the Funding?)

Posted by Naomi Natale On July - 27 - 2011

Naomi Natale

One of the greatest challenges of creating work at the intersection of art and social justice is finding the resources — read funding — to produce it.

The reality seems to be that art funders don’t seem to have much interest in this type of work and social justice funders are looking for measureable impacts by which to gauge their investment. Those of us doing this work know that our impacts are often immeasurable and that even when they are measurable it may not be possible to see them immediately. At the same time, the impacts are undeniable. So how do we even open the door to funders without becoming professional stalkers or finding a socially conscious, art appreciating angel willing to invest?

The way I see it, the funding challenge affects this work in two key ways. Read the rest of this entry »

The Visible Movement: Art That Challenges Us to Respond

Posted by Naomi Natale On July - 25 - 2011

Naomi Natale

For me, great art works challenge a viewer’s initial perspective and enables her or him to look at something in a different way, aesthetically, culturally, possibly politically.

That may be enough. But in my own work, I want to do more. I am specifically fascinated by the relationship between art and action and how it can effectively be applied to create social impact.

Each work I make has three stages: the creation of a visual concept; sharing that concept through hands-on workshops, education, and personal interactions; and collecting the individual artworks created during that process for a resulting public installation.

My work functions at that tipping point where an individual is so moved by a visual concept that the new, challenged, or changed perspective compels him or her to action. The action is to make an artwork that supports the visual concept. And all these actions piled one on top of another transforms my visual concept into a collaborative public work. Read the rest of this entry »