March 5, 2014

Facilitating Social Change: The Power of Art

The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is showcasing an exhibition entitled ‘Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women and Art’.

‘Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women and Art is a compelling exhibition curated and organized through Art Works for Change, an organization whose mission is to “harness the transformative power of art to promote awareness, provoke dialogue and inspire action.” Through this exhibition, Art Works for Change is bringing much needed attention to the violence experienced by women world-wide.’

Art brings voice to issues in a way that mere conversation may not always achieve.  As the website Art for Social Change states, “Art becomes a political act, a conscious effort to facilitate and participate in social change.”

Off the Beaten Path demonstrates that art can foment social change through providing opportunity to examine pertinent issues.  Violence against women in Canada is endemic, in which women are literally fighting from the cradle to the grave.  Statistics state that 1 in 4 women will survive some form of sexualized violence throughout her lifetime.  Art allows us to analyze and further, criticize social structures that breed disadvantages.

The Clothesline Project, which The SASC has facilitated at UBC for over a decade, is a community art project that bears visual witness to the perniciousness of gender-based violence, in particular sexualized violence.  Decorated t-shirts are hung on a clothesline to demonstrate the direct impact of acts of violence and to invite passersby into the conversation.  The SASC has also facilitated two community murals to inspire community action and examine our cultural (and University) norms – one to visually demonstrate ‘A Culture of Consent’ and the other to show ‘Visions of Community’.  Both can be viewed in the resource area of The SASC.

The 1937 painting by Pablo Picasso, ‘Guernica’, aided in contextualizing the injustice of the bombing of the city of Guernica, Spain, and further provides a permanent reminder of the tragedies of war.  War as we know, has often been a vehicle for facilitation of extreme acts of violence against women.

The feminist art movement not only “refers to the efforts and accomplishments of feminists internationally to make art that reflects women’s lives and experiences, as well as to change the foundation for the production and reception of contemporary art” but it also allows for the showcasing of pivotal issues with a feminist framework.  Art, especially art through a feminist lens, can indeed be a powerful medium for social change.

**Further Learning**:

1.    WAG Exhibition Summary
2.    Winnipeg Free Press Article: WAG shines spotlight on women, violence
3.    YouTube Clip: Breakfast Television Winnipeg- Local Arts Update
4.    Harnessing art for social change
5.    Feminist Art Movement

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