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Art & Activism

This week, we've been thinking a lot about art and activism. About how to use art to express and how to make art to release our hearts and minds. We've been researching books that help us learn more about creativity and social movements and have also been reaching out to friends in the community who do their work on this topic.

Talking with Tori Force

In this week's Coffee Break conversation hosted by Two Rivers Bookstore, I have the opportunity to do some learning from friend and art therapist Tori Force. Tori and I first crossed paths at Marylhurst. I was teaching a writing class, and as it often happens in such settings, we realized we were kindred spirits and have known each other ever since.

Tori Force is an Art Therapist working in community mental health in South Seattle. She is a black woman who grew up in South East Idaho. Tori centered her Master's thesis on how art therapy could be a tool used to help teens explore their identity. As an art therapist she believes in the power of all art forms to transform, inform and reform one's experiences, expression, and life. She loves to paint, block print, knit and crochet. She also loves to go on walks with her husband and cuddle her cats. In October 2019 she was a selected speaker at TedxIdahoStateUniversity. I highly recommend spending some time with her talk "The Power of Art Therapy in Small Towns."

Art & Anxiety

I'm grateful to have this opportunity to talk with Tori and to share our conversation in community as this intersection of art and activism is important for so many of us right now. One of my kiddos has extreme anxiety; they already had generalized anxiety, but COVID-19 and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, in addition to so many others, at the hands of white police, as a manifestation of the deeply rooted white supremacy in our nation, has escalated their fears. While we used to attend any remotely family-friendly protest and community event, we now find ourselves going to none...

Art as Activism with Kids

What does this mean for us? It means a few things. It means that we are having a lot of conversations with family and friends as we continue to do our activism from home. It means that we are stretching our imaginations to think about what kind of protest and movement toward collective liberation we can participate in even as we stay in place. And it means that art as activism has taken a center stage.

We've been drawing our inspiration from a lot of beautiful sources, and we wanted to share some of them here.

City Protest Art

We took a field trip last weekend to drive around to sites of the powerful mural art that has been created all over the city to uplift, to memorialize, to express, to mourn. Seeing this art on the walls of our city, on boarded up windows, on sidewalks, sprayed onto windows, being painted right there in front of our eyes -- was moving. And when we got home, we had a lot to talk about what this kind of art means.

Friends & Family Who Are Activists

A sweet, thoughtful friend suggested that our kids paint signs and that she would carry them in protests in their names. She takes pictures of the signs out in the world and gives the kids voice even if they aren't physically present.

Sidewalk Art

  • We chalk our walk with messages that are part of the movement for Black Lives.

  • We paint rocks with messages -- either to memorialize those who have lost their lives to racial violence or to share messages of action and hope.

  • We use window markers on our front window to share our values, beliefs, and hope.

  • We create sidewalk museums -- we laminate facts, quotes, and images related to the topics we care deeply about and we tack them to our front fence for walkers by to read and learn from.

  • We stuff our little free library with Own Voices books.

Books That Inspire Us with Their Art...

Of course, we connect with our community and we also read. Here are our recommendations for books that might inspire you and your kiddos to dive into some art as activism and self exploration.

YA Books

  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: the main character makes beautiful collage art as she processes her identity and her world

  • Slay by Brittney Morris: creative video game development as an act of resistance

  • Shadowshapers by Daniel Older: a three-part series, the murals in this story carry magic and messages from ancestors

  • Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan: two high school women and their friends take action to have their voices heard; poetry, screen printing, and other art featured.

  • The Art of Protest by Jo Rippon: A visual history of protest art from the last century.

Picture Books

  • Rise Up: The Art of Protest by Jo Rippon: Examples of protest art from around the world to inspire kids and adults alike.

  • Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J.H. Shapiro: Shows us how we can heal through turning trash into beauty.

  • Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy: How art can help us connect with our neighbors and neighborhoods.

  • Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde: Turn an bare neglected wall into a mural and community gathering spot.


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