Whether puppeteers, poets or musicians, DC’s artists find creative ways to amplify their voice and become agents for progressive change. Below is information on local organizations, regular events, artist collectives, and books and resources.
Special thanks to Puppet Underground and Provisions Library for helping to compile this list of resources.
(For a full listing of arts and activism organizations in the DC metro area, apply the "Art & Culture" category in our Organization Directory.)
Black L.U.V. Festival
Every third Sunday in September
Malcolm X Park Drum Circle
Every Sunday afternoon at Malcolm X Park
The Emergence Community Arts Collective
The Emergence Community Arts Collective integrates traditional arts, education and social ser-vices in a community space.
Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative is a decentralized network of 26 artists committed to making print and design work that reflects a radical social, environmental, and political stance.
*No artists from DC listed
The Lamont Street Collective
The LSC is one of DC’s oldest intentional communities. It works in the community by providing space & resources for activist art builds, art & activist events, and an ongoing speaker series that brings dialogue on social justice to Mount Pleasant.
Washington Action Group (WAG)
Organization and training in non-violence and awesome political puppets and props.
Women's Caucus for Art - Washington DC
WCA DC is the Washington DC area chapter of National Women’s Caucus for Art. This organization, formed in 1972, is committed to recognition of the contribution of women in the arts. Member exhibits of WCA-DC represent artistic and cultural diversity. Art work includes painting, assemblage, mixed media and sculpture in original expression of subjects as diverse as autobiographical subjects, social commentary, landscape, natural, cultural subjects as well as conceptual and abstract work.
Positive Force DC
Positive Force DC is an activist collective that came from the 1980s DC punk and hardcore scene. They seek radical social change, personal growth, and youth empowerment.
Books and Resources
Art, Activism, and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage
by Grant Kester
In bringing together sixteen of the most important essays on activist and community-based art from the pages of Afterimage, one of the most influential journals in the media and visual arts fields for more than twenty-five years, Grant H. Kester demonstrates that activist art, far from being antithetical to the true meaning of the aesthetic, can be its most legitimate expression.
Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century
by Gerald Rauning
Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts
by Mat Schwarzman
Ten transformative local arts projects come alive in this illustrated training manual for youth leaders and teachers. This energetic guidebook demonstrates the enormous power of art in grass-roots social change. It presents proven models of community-based arts programs, plus techniques, discussion questions, and plentiful resources.
Writer Mat Schwarzman directs the Crossroads Center at Xavier University, which trains youth leaders nationwide in community-based arts activism. He holds a PhD in transformative learning.
Graphic storyteller Keith Knight is an award-winning cartoonist, rapper, and hip-hop musician with two nationally syndicated comic strips.
But Is It Art?: The Spirit of Art As Activism
by Nina Felshin
Community, Culture and Globalization
by Don Adams
Adams and Goldbard define community cultural development as "the work of artist-organizers ("community artists") who collaborate with others to express identity, concerns and aspirations through the arts and communications media, while building cultural capacity and contributing to social change."(p. 8) Its validity, they explain, is "as a stimulus to pluralism, participation and equity in cultural life, and as a response to globalization's pull toward the standardization of commercial culture." (p. 8)
“Enacting Participatory Development: Theater-Based Techniques” by Julie McCarthy
This is a great source for participatory exercises that can be adapted for meetings, workshops and events. It also gives examples and notes from facilitators who have used the exercises.
Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society
by Brian Holmes
“How does art become subversive of the social order? How does it undermine normal, legitimate, accepted patterns of behavior, and how does it open up possibilities for the transformation of everyday life? What can subversive art accomplish in the political arena? And what are its limits, how can it exceed them in the future?”
Land & Environmental Art (Themes & Movements)
by Jeffrey Kastner
This book traces early developments to the present day, where artists are exploring eco-systems and the interface between industrial, urban and rural cultures. Alongside stunning photographs, sketches and project notes, Kastner compiles an invaluable archive of statements by all the featured artists alongside related texts by art historians, critics, philosophers and cultural theorists including Jean Baudrillard, Edmund Burke, Guy Debord, Michael Fried, Dave Hickey, Lucy R. Lippard, Thomas McEvilley, Carolyn Merchant and Simon Schama
(Amazon.com product description)
“Make Your Own Stilts”
Radical Street Performance: A International Anthology
by Jan Cohen-Cruz
Radical Street Performance is the first volume to collect the fascinating array of writings by activists, directors, performers, critics, scholars and journalists who have documented political performance in streets around the world. These essays look at performance in Europe, Africa, China, India and both of the Americas, and describe engagements with issues as diverse as abortion, colonialism, the environment and homophobia, to name only a sampling. Including coverage of the highly performative political activities of organizations such as ACT-UP and Greenpeace, the public spectacle of Abbie Hoffman's political radicalism, and the writings of Tolstoy, this is truly a new kind of primer for the study of politics and performance. (Amazon.com product description)
“Re:Imagining Change: An Introduction to Story-based Strategies to Win Campaigns, Build Movements and Change the World” by Patrick Reinsborough & Doyle Canning
Resources, theory, hands-on tools and illuminating case studies. Explores how culture, media, memes and narrative intertwine with social change strategies, and offers practical methods to amplify progressive causes in popular culture.
“Resources for Social Change Workbook” by Alternate ROOTS
Based on Resources for Social Change (RSC), a training program devoted to teaching and exchanging methods for creating social change through the arts. It explains case studies, principles and workshops by RSC.
Center for Story-based Strategy
Works on bringing cultural transformation strategies into grassroots campaigns primarily through storytelling. Their mission is to build movements and amplify the impact of grassroots organizing with strategy and training resources, values based on communications, collaborations, and meme campaigning.
“The Activist Cookbook: Creative Actions for a Fair Economy” by Andrew Boyd
A hands-on manual for activists and artists who want to find new ways to spice up their messages. Includes great action ideas, tips, script and an extensive resource list.
The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena
An Anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978-1998
By Linda Frye-Burhman
Art FOR the public? Art OF the public? Art BY the public? Single words that signify a world of historical and critical issues facing the public artist today. Over the last 20 years, art workers have hotly debated how one broaches the concepts of the "public", of the "responsibility" of the artist, and of the "purpose" and "meaning" of art--especially when art is moved out of the museum/gallery and into the spaces of daily life. The Citizen Artist, a compendium of articles from the magazine High Performance, brings forth the voices of the artists that formed the backbone of these debates. From the Conceptual Art experiments of the '70s to the community-based art of the '90s, from political theories to humanist concerns of the public, the historical elements that have been integral to the development of public art make this one of the most engaging topics relating to art production today.
The Subversive Imagination: The Artist, Society and Social Responsiblity
by Carol Becker
In The Subversive Imagination , professional writers, artists and cultural critics from around the world offer their views on the issue of the artist's responsibility to society. The contributors look beyond censorship and free speech issues and instead emphasize the subject of freedom. More specifically, the contributors question the ethical, mutual responsibilities between artists and the societies in which they live. The original essays address an eclectic range of subjects: censorship, multiculturalism, the transition from communism to capitalism in Eastern Europe, postmodernism, Salman Rushdie, and young black filmmakers' responsibility to the black community. (Amazon.com product description)
Theater of the Oppressed (TOPLAB)
Based on the work of Augusto Boal, the Theater of the Oppressed “is a form of popular theater, of, by and for people engaged in the struggle for liberation. More specifically, it is a rehearsal theater designed for people who want to learn ways of fighting back against oppression in their daily lives.
What We Want Is Free: Generosity And Exchange In Recent Art
by Ted Purves
Wise Fool Basics: A handbook of our core techniques
by K. Ruby
GREAT resource for making puppets, masks, stilts and other visuals. It also has sections on designing a workshop to elicit visuals for an action, the consensus process and other awesome stuff.