Art as a social driver

It’s hard to go through college without changing. In fact, unless you’re numb or you purposely avoid all contact with others, it’s nearly impossible to not change at least a little. At Colby we’re constantly bombarded by new information, constantly asked to form opinions, constantly having our views challenged. We’re taught how to question both ourselves and our surroundings; we learn what truly matters to us as individuals.

Now that Colby’s changed us, it’s our time to change Colby. I’m full of ideas of how this place could be better, and my ideas are just a fraction of those that are out there. But, the real question is how. How do we change Colby? More basically, how does one change anything?

Last night I attended a talk by Favianna Rodriguez about the power of art in creating social change. Rodriguez, a California based political artist, shaped her talk around the power art has to shape culture and how in turn culture influences public opinion. Once public sentiment is behind an idea or movement, real political change can take place.

Favianna uses her art to frame an issue in her own terms. By “building the narrative” of a problem, she changes how people understand and react to that problem. With a creative (or at times shocking) spin on a common issue, she suddenly opens up the possibility of a new interpretation of that issue. Favianna believes that the repetition of a powerful image can become ingrained into the public mind, become part of culture and eventually lead to political change.

Most of the work Favianna shared with us were her posters, all of which I found to be absolutely beautiful. Here’s a link to Favianna’s website if you want to see for yourself:

The bottom-up approach to change Favianna addressed was refreshing and gave me hope. Many times when I think about trying to create change, even just at Colby, the obstacles coming from the administration seem impassible. But maybe I’ve been going about it in the wrong way. With what I’ve learned from Favianna’s talk, I’m now thinking that a more creative angle may be what’s needed to shake things up here at Colby.

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