Artists and cultural leaders have been at the forefront of social change throughout US history. Today, in the face of growing intolerance and widening inequality, the arts have the power to transform how people view each other and the world around them. The Art of Change Fellows all have a demonstrated commitment to social justice and reflect a powerful diversity of experiences and creative voices. Drawn from a wide range of artistic fields, the fellows span generations, backgrounds, geographies, and life experiences—and together tell a rich and varied American story.
The Art of Change is an ongoing initiative with the Ford Foundation exploring the interplay of art and social change.
Since 2015 Helicon has been working with the Ford Foundation on the Art of Change, an initiative exploring the interplay of art and social justice. The launch year (2015-2016) included a fellowship program for creative visionaries, a series of events, and a website that aggregated news and events relevant to intersection of art and justice worldwide. We continue to work with the Foundation and the current cohort of 25 visionary artists and cultural leaders whose art is advancing freedom, justice, and inclusion and strengthening our democracy.
There were thirteen Art of Change Fellows in 2015-2016– Robert Battle, Thelma Golden, Amitav Ghosh, David Henry Hwang, Deeyah Khan, Arnold Lehman, Joy Mboya, Laura Poitras, Bill Rauch, Toshi Reagon, Pedro Reyes, Albie Sachs and Carrie Mae Weems. Their projects explored critical issues such as surveillance, climate change, drug policy and capitalism, soft power, diversity in the arts, social networks and the power of technology. The current cohort of Fellows including Sandra Cisneros and Ava du Vernay, announced in October of 2017, can be found here. Their projects are still in development, but their work is transformative on an ongoing basis.
Through a series of 11 convenings and gatherings throughout 2016-2017, we engaged more than 800 people in live discussions, examining the relationship of culture to themes of identity, meaning, diversity and freedom. These events explored topics such as art, identity and movements; the essential role of beauty in society, and diversity in the arts. Program participants came from across the U.S., and included cultural leaders, social justice activists and other thought-leaders. Some of the convenings were also livestreamed and broadcast to viewers around the world, including to several partner screening sites who hosted their supplementary programming.
A custom project website functioned as a hub for the Art of Change initiative, hosting original content from the Fellows and events, as well as curated content related to the themes being addressed. The site shared both curated and original content, including Fellow interviews, relevant articles and conversations, and video of the various Art of Change events. The site is now archived and upcoming announcements will be featured on the Ford Foundation website.