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Public Art for Community Strength & Resilience

Artwork in all mediums captures the expansiveness of human existence – mind, body and soul. It demonstrates our feelings, values and beliefs, our attitudes and reactions to the world. Producing art gives us a unique space to amplify our voices against oppression and injustice – one that is born out of an urgent desire for change. In art spaces, individual and shared experiences collide to uncover truth and tell stories that have long been suppressed. Art also makes us softer. It gives us tools to be courageous in our vulnerability and create paths for collective strength and resilience. In a world where great suffering occurs everyday, art pulls us together and brings us back to love. Creative expression provides a foundation. A community immersed in the art of its people has the energy to endure obstacles and keep moving forward.  
Art has an enormous capacity to influence, mobilize and heighten awareness of social injustice and community issues. By bringing the locus of social problems into the community center, public artists create a powerful force to facilitate community discussions and drive action. Traditionally, artistic expression has been one of the most predominant ways marginalized populations have chosen to engage with the political and social issues. 
Black feminist artists such as Carrie Mae Weems and Mikalene Thomas use their mediums to engage viewers with topics such as: violence, black femininity, mourning and strength. Weems’ 2011 public art project, Carrie Mae Weems & Social Studies 101, Operation: Activate used striking imagery and bold language to activate a campaign to stop violence and reckless police murder of young black men in Syracuse. The project culminated as a strong example of how art can be used as a potent tactic in social campaigns. Similarly, in her 2012 project, Origin of the Universe, Mikalene Thomas converts examples of female objectification into feminine agency and power. 
While providing spaces for community reflection and congregation, art also prods our imagination for future possibilities. It gives us visuals of what our world would look like without having to fight against society’s own destabilization. 

- By: Kelly Beecher, Vox Culture Blogger

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