The Art of Protest

Frustrated by today’s political climate but too young to vote? Art could be the answer to your problems.

For decades, protest and advocacy art have been used as tools of dissent, inciting people to take action on issues that matter to them. Art is a powerful form of advocacy and a cornerstone of social justice movements. Today, street art is one of the most visible forms of everyday activism.

The politically charged light installations on the streets of New York and DC are forms of street art. They are unavoidable. They begin conversations. They are interactive forms of art.

The Illuminator, a New York based artist collective comprised of educators, visual artists, filmmakers and technologists, is the group behind the installations. They are using their talents to create the future of protest art. The artists have transformed the streets from a place of “transit to a space of engagement, conflict, and dialogue,” said one member of the collective.

These light installations are public political interventions. On September 28, the collective projected a light installation of Christine Blasey Ford with the words “thank you” printed underneath on the New York State Supreme Court building. The projection was a public thank you to Ford for her bravery and for her testimony. A similar light installation was projected onto the front of future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s courthouse in Washington D.C. When you visit the light installation you can hear people all around you engaging in conversation. However, even though the hearings have become a hotly debated subject, there were some viewers who disagreed with the installation.

The question is still posed: what can you do when you are too young to vote but ready to take action? In the GDS community artists have taken to creating their own versions of protest art. The spring Identity Shows allows for students to consider how aspects of their identity interact with the current political environment. English teachers are even assigning students to create comics connecting the literature they are covering in class to current events.

Protest art is a powerful platform. It is accessible and it has the ability to concisely convey a message. I encourage students to find ways to express their opinions, whether that be through art or another medium. You might be too young to vote, but you are not too young to use your voice and take action in a different form.

By Jenna Schulman’19