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We know art is powerful. In fact, of all of the magical possibilities that our profession provides, perhaps the most amazing is that art can unify. It’s a universal language we all speak and it can bridge enormous divides.
Recently, I read a terrific piece on N.P.R. about how UNICEF created a series of animated, short, “Unfairy Tales” to help tell the story of refugee children. You can watch an example below or follow the link to see them all. Warning: these are not happy cartoons. They are heart-wrenching, compelling, animated shorts.
Whether or not you choose to watch, you know art can be a platform for social change because it reaches deep into our souls and speaks a visceral language we all understand.
In this case, UNICEF is hoping that seeing a humanitarian issue like this through the lens of an animator will draw more support for the cause.
Art serving as a tool for social activism or social healing is not new, but as art educators, we need to be reminded of this.
Choose an artist and a cause that is age appropriate for the children you teach. For example, I might use Keith Haring or Ai Weiwei with middle or high school students. Share with students the causes the artist is or was passionate about. Using Keith Haring, I might talk about how he addressed hot-button issues like AIDS, racial and income inequality, and nuclear proliferation with imagery that was incredibly relatable but also visually compelling.
Using the steps below, guide your students through the process of creating powerful works of art.
Note: If you are concerned about negative comments or privacy issues, you can set up a social media exchange through a platform like Edmodo so you can monitor everything. Students could then share outside the platform on their own.
Our students have strong opinions, a unique perspective to share, and an innate sensibility about what moves people to share online. Let’s empower them. Allow our young artists to inspire the social change they believe the world needs.
Do you currently teach a lesson related to social justice issues?
Are you teaching about a certain artist that is/was also an activist? If so, who?