Lyrics. Paint. Movement. Words. Thread.
These are the welcoming arms of artivists.
“Artivism,” a combination of “art” and “activism,” is more than a clever word mash-up. It’s a form of fierce but blusterless advocacy whose peaceful proponents use art as a peaceful tool to inspire social change.
It’s also the title of an event (stylized as “ARTivism”) taking place on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura. The free community event will feature a screening of the film Little Stones, a documentary about four women who use art to raise awareness about women’s rights issues, followed by workshops to show participants how to flex their own artivist creativity.
The event’s sponsors are a mix of local artists and activists: The Acorn Project’s Reel Advocacy Series, Ojai NOW, Coalition for Family Harmony, Ventura County Women’s Forum Collaborative, Girls Girl Club, Buenaventura Art Association and Bell Arts Factory.
Elizabeth Jurgensen, president of Ojai NOW, plans to present a “Word Collages” workshop in which participants contribute short words or phrases to create a collective art piece.
“It will demonstrate the power of words spoken as a group,” Jurgensen said.
According to Jurgensen, the arts as an activism tool “affect us on a level our intellect doesn’t.” The arts can “make us feel connected, and are more inclusive. Not everyone is a politician, or a lawyer, or can give money to causes. But anyone can write, or draw, or do something creative that expresses what they think is important.”
The impetus for and centerpiece of ARTivism is Sophia Kruz’s 87-minute documentary Little Stones, which The Acorn Project’s program developer, Alyson Warner, saw in March at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The screening included a panel discussion with the film’s director and four subjects.
“Even before going to the U.N., the idea of an artivism community organizing event appealed to me,” Warner said. Speaking to filmmaker Kruz and the artists in the film helped solidify the idea.
Among other honors, Little Stones won best documentary at the Vail Film Festival and best foreign documentary at the Female Eye Film Festival. The film, with an all-women production crew, highlights four women activists.
Panmela Castro is a Brazilian graffiti artist who uses street art to raise awareness about domestic violence.
Dancer and sociologist Sohini Chakraborty uses dance therapy to help victims of sex trafficking in India. She has worked with more than 65,000 victims, and trained more than 50 survivors to become dance therapists themselves.
Anna Taylor is a fashion designer who founded Judith & James, a clothing line featuring clothing made by poor women in Kenya. She presented her first style collection in 2014 at New York’s Fashion Week.
Rapper Sister Fa, who is from Senegal but now lives is Berlin, uses her music to raise awareness of female genital mutilation, which she endured herself as a child.
(Note: Because of the film’s adult themes, ARTivism organizers don’t recommend the event for young children.)
Director Kruz, at a TEDx event at the University of Michigan, said that “All these women are using culture . . . to create change around issues that others just thought one person probably couldn’t have an impact on.”
The film’s title comes from a quote by women’s rights activist Alice Paul in 1974: “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.”
According to Kruz, “The sentiment that we all have a role to play in the global fight for equal rights, to me perfectly encapsulated the work of each artist featured in the documentary.”
The Ventura ARTivism event, in addition to Jurgensen’s word collages workshop, will include a presentation on how to make zines by the Girls Girl Club; a bilingual music program by Harmony Project; a “Legacy of Names” workshop by Sarah Buchanan that explores “why we call ourselves what we do”; and an “Art Speaks” presentation by the Buenaventura Art Association (newly relocated to the Bell Arts Factory) on how visual design communicates messages.
Can artivism change the world? Maybe, but likely only through the collective efforts of many artivists.
Kimmy Dunn, president of the Girls Girl Club, a local organization that empowers women through art — by helping them generate income through teaching classes, or by inspiring women who attend such classes — said that “In a micro way, even if we teach a workshop to just 10 people, there’s a ripple effect. That’s what I like about the film: It focuses on the positive things that can come from women empowering women.”
ARTivism takes place on Sunday, Sept. 9, noon to 4 p.m. at the Bell Arts Factory, 432 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura. For more information, visit bit.ly/ARTivismVentura.