What is Artistic Activism?
There is an art to every practice, activism included. It’s what distinguishes the innovative from the routine, the elegant from the mundane. One thing that can help the “art of activism” is art, that is: applying an artistic aesthetic to activist tactics, strategy, and organization. Throughout history, the most effective political actors have married the arts with campaigns for social change. While Martin Luther King Jr. is now largely remembered for his example of moral courage, social movement historian Doug McAdam’s estimation of King’s “genius for strategic dramaturgy” better explains the success of his campaigns. The practice of artistic activism has only accelerated in recent times, as organizers have learned to operate within the increasingly mediated political terrain of signs and symbols, stories and spectacles. Artistic activism is not arts and activism, it is the melding of the two. It is not about using art as a window dressing for politics, nor is it about using politics as mere content matter for art. It is an approach to civic engagement that integrates the aesthetic and the political. Artistic activism is a hybrid.
What is Arts and Activism @ NYU?
Started with a two-year Working Research Group grant from the Humanities Initiative at New York University and has expanded into much more. Arts and Activism @ NYU is an intellectual home for scholars and artists to discuss, research, reflect upon and build connections between civic activism and artistic creation, generating new forms of knowledge at the intersection of theory and practice. We seek to build connections and strengthen networks between people and groups at New York University working at the intersection of creativity and politics. For the past two years, we’ve hosted a series of open forums on topics germane to the study of arts activism, such as efficacy, funding, affect, the power of play, ethics and many more. Our most exciting development is the establishing of an interdisciplinary concentration in Arts and Activism, available to a variety of M.A. degree programs each with their own individualized path.
What is the M.A. Concentration in Arts and Activism?
The Arts and Activism concentration is a compilation of pre-existing coursework across various departments at New York University. The concentration includes the following courses:
- One Core Theory Class, cross-listed amongst participating programs
- One Core Practice Class, cross-listed amongst participating programs
- Two Elective Courses
- One Arts and Activism Student Ensemble Project
The Core and Elective Courses will be determined on a regular and ongoing basis by the Arts and Activism faculty Steering Committee, and drawn from courses already on the books and currently being taught at NYU. The Elective Courses will be drawn from a range of programs, acknowledging and taking into account that some graduate programs at NYU offer their students very limited flexibility in their non-program course selection. The Ensemble Project will be a collective, student-led annual project that encompassed and expressed their studies and work in Arts and Activism, and would subjected to a faculty crit.
In addition to these curricular components, the Arts and Activism concentration, working with already existing NYU institutions like Arts and Activism @ NYU, the Hemispheric Institute, Yes Labs, and member programs, will sponsor regular lectures, discussion lunches, provide archival resources, and other activities to foster a sense of collegial community and contribute to an invigorating intellectual atmosphere.
By completing these courses, as well as participating in and taking advantage of additional events and resources, students will be able to cultivate strong working relationships with faculty already engaged in this practice, thus strengthening the work already being done in various different parts of the university. It will also create a network that operates across schools, disciplines, and majors, creating generative, and hopefully long-lasting, partnerships in a field where collaboration is crucial.
Currently all courses are only listed under the department offering them, but in time with continued support and collaboration, coursework could be cross-listed to allow for more exchange across programs and easier access and completion of the concentration.
What M.A. Programs offer a concentration in Arts and Activism @ NYU?
Who is Arts and Activism @ NYU?
Core Planning Committee
NYU Affiliated Faculty
Sinan Antoon, Gallatin School
Wafaa Bilal, Photography and Imaging, Tisch
Yemane Demissie, Television and Film, Tisch
Kathy Engels, Arts and Public Policy, Tisch
Alexander Galloway, Media, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Kristin Horton, Gallatin School
Natalie Jeremijenko, Arts and Arts Professions, Steinhardt
Jill Lane, Spanish and Portuguese, CAS
Ara Merjian, Italian & Art History, CAS
Eve Meltzer, Gallatin School
Nick Mirzoeff, Media, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Lissette Olivares, Gallatin School
Orlando Pabotoy, Drama, Tisch
Laura Portwood-Stacer, Media, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Laurin Raikin, Gallatin School
Mark Read, Gallatin School
Jacques Servin, Hemispheric Institute; Yes Lab @ NYU
Carl Skelton, NYU-Poly
Marita Sturken, Media, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Jack Tchen, Gallatin School; Social and Cultural Analysis, CAS
Ella Shohat, Arts and Public Policy, Tisch; Middle Eastern Studies, CAS
Robert Stam, University Professor
Juan de Dios Vázquez, Spanish and Portuguese, CAS
Ted Ziter, Drama, Tisch
Affiliated Faculty Elsewhere
L. M. Bogad, University of California, Davis
Steve Lambert, SUNY Purchase
Benjamin Shepard, City Tech, CUNY