by Hillary Rain
Art moves us. Art inspires, evokes, and speaks with an influence that can’t be ignored. As artists, we have a powerful opportunity to help shift collective consciousness. We have the alchemy to make someone see, feel, understand, and be haunted by something which can elicit lasting change.
Consider this: if we were having a conversation, I might tell you, “So the other day, there was this woman who stood in the street as cops came at her with guns.”
Or I could simply say, “Look at this.”
Which makes you feel more? Which stirs your senses? Which wraps flesh and blood around a moment you’ll never forget?
Creating the life you long for includes the world you live in right now. A world aching for peace. There are many powerful and gifted people on the front lines organizing events, making a difference through activism, speaking up and out. But when we are soft-spoken, sensitive, introverted, quiet and tender introspective artists…how? What does our brand of love activism look like? Whether our community is in pain over a tragic event, or the oppression of fellow humans is out of control, or our best friend is grieving a loss, as artists we want to make a difference.
Artists, we need you. We need each other.
As an artist, you are blessed with magic because you are brimming with all kinds of creative gifts: your ability to move someone. The way you can use your words, your camera, your paintbrush to leave a lasting impression. The way you can share a message that cannot be ignored. The way you can both disarm and provoke through art. You can be an effective and powerful love activist who uses your creative gifts + authentic truth to heal, evoke and inspire.
If you are gifted with the written word, you are in an incredible position to make a difference.
Fiction—1984 and The Fountainhead are just two powerful classics that still impact our world today. The art of telling stories is a way to move, evoke, inspire, and challenge someone to examine what they think, how they live, or what they believe. Stories help disarm us, help to put us in someone else’s shoes. Write a novel and share your truth. Make us feel something. Make us remember something. Make us want to change something.
Non-fiction—Write your own story. Write your memoir or start a blog sharing your life. What experiences have shaped you? What brought you to where you are today? What do you want others to know? Why are you passionate about change? What do you believe? What have you learned? If you had a microphone, what would you say? (Quietly, in a book, of course.) Write the stories of others. Interview those who have dwelt in the shadow of oppression all their lives. Give them a voice.
Other non-fiction—We live in the age of social media. It’s true that just sharing relevant hashtags doesn’t do much by itself, but if you’re on social media anyway, lending your voice and spreading awareness can go a long way in the collective conversation. Share your story. You can also share your beliefs in posts, tweets, comments, re-shares and more. Or write articles for journalistic publications. Start a new website for your cause.
Bonus: What is your favorite inspirational book? Share in the comments below!
Photographer? Help others see.
If you have a camera, you are equipped with a powerful way to create change through visual evocation. What do you want others to see? What is your creative mission? Beauty? Truth? The stories and experiences of others? Living conditions around your city? The faces of those in need so others can see themselves reflected in haunted, hungry eyes and be challenged to do something?
You don’t need expensive equipment or a sleek website. Start an Instagram account sharing what you see so others can see it, too. For inspiration, check out Humans of New York on Insta.
Use your photography to document injustice. How will history unfold through your lens? Help us remember. We need to remember.
Painter? Art journaler? Multi-media artist? Dancer? Move us with something provocative.
Your gifts of noticing beauty, of movement, of grace, and your talent with the pen, the brush, the light leaks and the layers are all sacred ways to nurture and heal. Offering something beautiful to look at, to feel, to see, and to experience is necessary for the world to become a softer, more compassionate place. You provide relief. Hope. Ways to transcend the ache or grief. To remind us there is more, there is better, there is another way.
Artist, your medicine is soul medicine. Be a beauty activist. This is the sort of rebellion that makes flowers burst through cracks in the sidewalk or lays gold in the lines of a shattered vase to repair it. Beauty is a healer because it moves us to another way of seeing, feeling, thinking, or being. By making beauty you are silently showing the world a better way.
So you must create. Dare to make art. Your defiance and determination are energy which fuels the collective consciousness. Share your work wherever you can. Let others see you living a beauty rebellion where you are so hungry for what is beautiful that your art itself becomes a revolt.
Bonus: One of my favorite creative beauty activists: Jade Beall. Who are yours?
Make your own Guerilla Art
Use your talents to spread a message of love, hope and ways others can facilitate change. Here is how:
- First, choose the size you want to create (a credit card makes a good template, or choose a 4x4 square) and create a foundation.
- By hand—Paint, draw, or splash coffee on card-stock for a creative background. Digital—Use a photo or layer textures and colors.
- Next, brainstorm simple sentences, phrases or words that inspire and evoke. Write or type them onto your background. Let them be your love notes to the world, your wake-up call, your plea.
- Finish with any printing, cutting, or shaping of your art. Carry them with you and secure them on community bulletin boards or other creative places.
Bonus: what would your Guerilla Art say? Share below!
The art of listening is one of the kindest gifts you can give someone in pain. Especially when it’s the kind of pain you’ve never felt and may not understand. Hold space with compassion. Don’t rush to respond. Don’t interrupt. And especially don’t jump in with your own story. Let your loved one cry, vent, and repeat their account. And be the one who believes them. People in pain or who are processing injustice may be used to having their experiences or emotions dismissed and invalidated by others. Be the one who looks them in the eyes with earnest acceptance. You might not understand exactly what they are going through, but you can believe them. This is a powerful way to help someone else find words and process their experience. “Telling and listening to stories is the way we make sense of our lives.”—Dr. Thomas K. Houston (Source)
Recommended resource: Listening as Healing
You’ve probably heard this. Maybe you’ve even said it: “When my mom died I found out who my real friends were.” Or, “When I went through my divorce, he was there for me.” Be that one. Whether the pain is personal or communal, show up. Maybe you can’t fix what happened but you can be there. Don’t run away. When someone is grieving, angry at injustice, or heartbroken, stay with them as they process their emotions and express their truths. You can be a soft place to land. Reach out in person if you can—wash their dishes, rub their feet, call. Or write letters. Bake a loaf of fresh bread, chop vegetables for healing soup, and show up at their door. Send flowers. Ask how they are—really. Be a shoulder to lean on. Offer to babysit. Take them to dinner or pay for a healing massage. Let them know they are not alone. Sometimes this is the most healing of all.
Start an artist collective
If you’ve ever felt powerless, alone, or uncertain how to make a change, you can be sure others have felt the same. What skills, passions, and resources are available in your niche? How can your collective utilize communal strength to emphasize what you are for? Many cities have gathering space in local coffeeshops, public parks, used bookstores and more. Put out a call on Craigslist, through Meet-Up, or design flyers to post around town. (Be safe! Always meet in public and don’t go alone.)
Here are some ideas for your collective…
Organize a peaceful protest + art revolution. • Make an area of your city beautiful. • Hold a free art camp for kids. • Plan an auction for art / services and give the proceeds to a cause you’re passionate about. • Host an art-journaling + awareness workshop. • Plan a community picnic at a public park and share love, food, music, peace and flowers. • Have shirts made and wear them as you hand out flowers + cards or handmade ‘Zines directing people to your website. • Arrange a local meet-up and use the time to write letters to local and national leaders asking what they are doing to change an oppressive system. • Start a local meal service to organize home-cooked food at births or bereavements, protests, rallies, or other events within the framework of your cause. • Work with your local library to start an after-school art program teaching kids the power and potential of creativity. • Do random acts of beauty. • Write love letters to your city. Post them publicly. • Hand out water bottles or cups of cold water during protests. • Offer cool washcloths for hot, sweaty faces during events. Bonus: have refreshing, chilled aromatherapy mists available, too. • Make energy cookies and hand those out. • To invest in the longevity of your work, stay updated on local laws + regulations. • Hold a creativity + awareness workshop for adults who don’t know where to begin learning how to make art.
Be a safe place
Grief is vulnerable. When someone is pressed close to tragedy, injustice, abuse, heartache, or any other pain, it’s hard to know who to trust. Grief slices open the sacred interior of things and leaves us hanging out, exposed, our gaping wounds bleeding and weeping in the sudden rush of light. Be a safe place. Be the one giving your friend unspoken permission to fall apart, knowing you will protect their dignity. That you’ll be there to catch them. That you will support, protect, and stay. That you won’t betray them on social media or to others. As an artist, an empath, a healer, you are especially equipped to hold and behold the undulant layers of grief. It takes your intuition, your wisdom, your infinite ability to observe, listen, and feel.
Dear artist, you doing you is sacred work.
Remember, we need all kinds of people. Activists on the front lines, creating change. Artists, creating the world they long for. Healers, mending the wounds. You are needed. You, with your unique gifts, insights, and way of being in the world, are invaluable. Don’t let others shame you for not being like someone else. Don’t buy into the shame of “You’re not doing enough.”
Be guided by being authentically YOU and bring yourself to the ache of the world. Maybe you stumble over the spoken word but can write a killer, unforgettable essay. Maybe you have panic attacks in crowds, but are a breath of fresh air after, cleaning and healing the space. Maybe you know how to cook for an army and can support the energy and stamina of those who organize events by preparing delicious, nourishing food. There is a perfect place for you, whoever you are, with your own personality and gifts. Be willing. Be creative. Love actively. Show up.
Hillary Rain is a writer, artist + gentle guide who works with women to create the lives they long for. Connect at HillaryRain.com.