Creativity and Activism: Another World is Possible

This post originally appeared on the T1International blog on November 30, 2020, and it was written by Marina Tsaplina. I am sharing it here today because it made me start to think about creativity and activism as a unit for the first time. Want to know exactly what makes it so powerful to join art with activism? Read on…

When I think about activism, I think about creativity. The two are inseparable. Think about how much creativity and strength it has taken the #insulin4all movement to:

  • Counter the stories put out by the for-profit U.S. health industry about why insulin “has” to be so expensive and transform the national narrative around insulin affordability
  • Continually transform the pain in our community into stories for change
  • Imagine a world where insulin is affordable and accessible for every single person who needs it to live.

#insulin4all, as a banner of the movement, is itself an act of fierce creativity. It imagines a world that we do not yet have, one that countless activists are organizing to bring forward. The courage and imagination that this statement holds brings forward a vision for the world we want to see. It makes it possible to strategically identify those whose actions harm or block us from achieving this vision. And under the banner of the #insulin4all vision – this dream that we are turning into a reality – we organize and strategically map out the steps we must take in order to achieve the world we want to see.

#insulin4all also means a different thing for each of us: each person who joins the movement has their own personal meaning and reason for why we join. And it is these deeply-felt personal stories that make adding art into advocacy and activism actions so powerful. It is another way to bring our personal voice into a collective movement for change. It is also fun!

Here are five reasons – showcasing #insuiln4all and other social change movements around the world – why joining art, creativity and activism together is so powerful. It fosters self-expression, community building, activation, it is inspiring and attention grabbing, and it leads activists to better engage with the media.

1. Self Expression

Getting creative helps hone your personal advocacy voice, transforms a personal feeling into a political message, and contributes your creative spirit into collective creativity. It also helps people feel that every single person’s voice matters. Because each voice does matterCommunity art making is a deeply democratic process.

Patient activists pictured below are expressing their personal stories. As another example, signs created by individuals from the disability community NoBody is Disposable call for an end to the discriminatory medical rationing policies during #COVID19.

2. Community Building

Working on an art-build is a fantastic way to build community. Pictured below is one of the in-process photos from advocates making large banners for the New York #insulin4all Chapter and actions. The Chapter was still new and forming, and the art-making process, as well as the many advocacy actions the Chapter continues to do, forms connections between the members. Yes, it takes energy and effort, but once you’ve done it, you have the materials to use in many future actions! Not to mention, people showing up to contribute helps each of us know we are not alone in this fight.

This below pictured postcard was designed by New York #insulin4all Chapter member Annalisa van den Bergh for advocates to fill out and send to the governor. This is a great example of digital (and safe!) advocacy during COVID.

Community artist and organizer Rachel Schragis created screen-printed signs and banners, and led on the creation of many concepts for the Sunrise Movement, because climate health = public health = our health. 

3. Political Activation

There’s no one right way to join creativity and advocacy – the image here shows the powerful way an imprint of a red hand across the mouth united indigenous women and allies across Turtle Island (United States and Canada) to bring awareness to the gender-and-race-based violence being perpetrated against indigenous communities.

Being immersed in creative energy opens the space within people to reflect on their own experiences, share and unite in dialogue with others, share opinions, build knowledge and commit to actions. People may often feel embarrassment, or shame, for being unable to afford insulin. This is how oppression works: we internalize external causes and place the blame on ourselves. Creative activism helps activate and engage a person to realize that their suffering has social origins, and helps inspire them to become an advocate and activist who works for policy change.

4. Inspiration and Attention Grabbing 

To build energy and grab attention of the public to join your cause, there’s no better way than through creating a bit of a public spectacle. The large banners that the New York Chapter created took up space, and made our messages loud and clear for both the media, and passers-by. The portraits below of the lives lost to insulin rationing by artist Mike Lawson created a deeply-felt homage in helping us mourn the sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers we have lost to pharmaceutical greed.

Giant puppets have a long and deep history in activism, including the HIV/AIDS movement and beyond. Little Amal, a giant refugee puppet, embarked on an epic journey from Syria to Europe in order to “rewrite the narrative about refugees”.

5. Media Engagement

Finally, by uniting creativity, purpose, emotion and action and creating attention-grabbing visuals, our cause is more likely to catch the attention of social media, and the press. Strong, clear messaging, unique perspectives, and inspiring visuals unite joy, inspiration and purpose in the long, winding road of social change.

Most of all, art and creativity helps us remember the most important thing: We are unstoppable, and another world is possible! 

One thought on “Creativity and Activism: Another World is Possible

  1. If IFL were creative they woudl figure out a way to attack PBM’s, Novo, insurance providers and Sanofi. So far the main thinking has been to protest Eli Lilly. Until the movement decides to target the broader issue I will be for. But until it does I do not see it as creative. I only see it as opportunistic.

    In my view there is nothing wrong with targeting Eli Lilly. But there is a clear issue with stopping there.

    Liked by 1 person

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