How You Can Lead the Charge in Promoting Social Activism with Art
Art inspires and brings us together in so many ways, but one of its most important functions is to tell our stories and commemorate a community’s experience. There aren’t written records that tell us why Ice Age artists created the cave paintings in France, but their work speaks to us across the millennia, telling us stories about the lives of our ancient ancestors and the dangers they encountered.
That same impulse to create that commemorates important experiences lives on today, as social activism intersects with art to inspire new generations. The Black Lives Matter movement inspired amazing art, as did social justice movements like the Stonewall uprising for LGBTQ+ equality and the women’s suffrage movement.
Getting It Wrong
As we saw during the Black Lives Matter movement, brands and businesses want to express solidarity with social movements, but they don’t always get it right. We saw how a message could reach millions (maybe billions) when activists called on the music industry to observe a social media blackout to call attention to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others.
The gesture led to celebrities and businesses of all types posting black squares on Instagram and Twitter with the #BLM hashtag. Their intentions were good, but their hashtags flooded the zone and prevented activists from using social media for their vital work. Some activists rightly noted that it would have been better for companies to amplify voices that don’t typically have a huge megaphone.
Closer to home, Muros received inquiries from brands that asked us to put them in touch with Black artists to create temporary, branded displays in support of #BLM—at a discount rate. We declined because we believe artists should be in the driver’s seat on creative vision and be paid fairly. We’re also convinced that social activism-related art should be an enduring message, not temporary ad copy.
Getting It Right
Other brands and business owners got it right. One of our clients, @properties, approached the question of how they could express solidarity thoughtfully, with respect for the artistic vision. Muros connected them up with local Black artist Dwight White II, who painted a profoundly beautiful and impactful mural to commemorate peaceful activists who are using their voices now to build a better world for the next generation.
Another Muros client, the Seattle Storm WNBA team, is also deeply committed to civic responsibility and social justice. Through Muros, the team commissioned a mural by a Seattle area Asian American artist, Mari Shibuya and Black nonbinary artist, Zahyr Lauren, to celebrate the diverse Seattle community.
Taking the Storm’s message to heart, the artists spotted an opportunity for a more diverse collab, and created a work of art that will continue to connect the Seattle Storm organization with the surrounding community in a meaningful way.
If your brand is ready to promote the social causes you care about through art, Muros can help you find the right artist and ensure you take the right approach. We always say the most impactful creations come through educating yourself and partnering with the artist that shares your vision of the future. .
Also consider taking it a step further and examining your own business practices to make sure you’re reflecting the change you want to see in the world. With an intentional approach—and the power of art—you can lead the charge on issues you care about that might set off a chain reaction of positivity.