Art Activism

"Great protests are great art works." - Sarah Sze

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KAITLYN ZHOU

@zhoukaitlyn

Shayna Rutman interviewed our new Art Activism Team Member, 17-year-old Kaitlyn Zhou from Naperville, Illinois. They discussed her background in art and youth-based activism, her national recognition, and illustration positions within Gen Rise Media and the Young Artivists Alliance.

Shayna: What got you involved in youth and student activism?

Kaitlyn: As a youth myself, I believe that our opinions have often been shut out in public. Many adults just ignore our generation, and their reason for that is because we are inexperienced and unaware of modern topics and issues we have in our world. As a result, most of the youth today are too scared to voice their opinions to the public. However, that should not be the case. Thus, I started getting involved in youth and student activism because I want to inspire other youth to take on activism and to advocate for what they believe in. Additionally, I felt passionate about expressing my opinions and making a change to different issues we have in the world, and I wanted to do my part to make a change within my community and other communities as well.

Shayna: What got you involved with art? Tell us about your art background.

Kaitlyn: I have always loved to create, and I think my parents saw that because they signed me up for art classes when I was 5 years old. I have been drawing since then. Right now, I have been nationally recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing twice, once as an American Vision nominee, and internationally recognized by Claremont Review.

Shayna: Why did you choose to combine both art and activism?

Kaitlyn: I have loved art since I was very young, and I often use art as a way to express myself. I also am passionate about activism and wanted to create social change in my community and in other communities as well. Thus, I decided to combine my two passions and advocate with my art.

Shayna: What do you think is the importance of protest art?

Kaitlyn: Art is a powerful way for activism because it gives artists a strong voice and a way to express their opinions through doing what they are passionate about, which is being creative. Additionally, art is a powerful way to advocate because it allows a creative outlet for artists, while also creating social change by appealing to the audience emotionally with their artworks.

Shayna: What was the response surrounding your art activism from your community and your peers? 

Kaitlyn: My community and my peers have been very supportive surrounding my art activism. I am very lucky to live in a very encouraging community and to have very motivational peers.

Shayna: What type of mediums do you use to engage in a strong portrayal of protest art?

Kaitlyn: I have experimented with many different mediums, such as ink, color pencil, oil paints, watercolor, digital art, and many more. However, I use mostly color pencils and oil paintings to protest art.

Shayna: What is your favorite type of protest art? Have you created anything specifically that represents it? If so, will you also attach an image?

Kaitlyn: My favorite type of protest art that I want to experiment with is the one that is more abstract and uses bright colors to attract attention. I have not created anything specifically, but I hope I can in the future.

Shayna: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Kaitlyn: I would say just go for it, find an issue you are passionate about, and start advocating. You are not alone. There is a huge group of youth around the world that are working for the same goal and that will support you. Doing something today, can make a huge impact for tomorrow.

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ELIANA CORTEZ

@

Shayna Rutman interviewed our new Art Activism Team Director, 17-year-old Eliana Cortez from NYC. They discussed her background in art and youth-based activism as well as the importance of protest art.

Shayna: What got you involved in youth and student activism?

Eliana: I think what got me involved in activism was my interest in current issues and public policy. This interest opened my eyes to the injustices and failures in our world. This inspired me to spark change and led to my involvement in youth and student activism.

Shayna: What got you involved with art? Tell us about your art background.

Eliana: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a passion of mine. What really helped me grow this passion and hone my skills was my participation in a Saturday art program. I was in this program throughout elementary and middle school. I’m so grateful to have been a part of it because not only was I taught by amazing artists, but also I got to work with so many different mediums. Now, at my high school, I’m an art major. This has allowed me to improve my drawing and painting skills. 

Shayna: Why did you choose to combine both art and activism?

Eliana: I love that art can reach and be understood by so many people. I’ve always seen art as a powerful medium for storytelling. Art conveys a message. I chose to combine art with activism because activism is also about conveying a message. It’s about making people’s voices heard. It’s about making people aware of issues and inspiring them to care about these issues.

Shayna: What do you think is the importance of protest art?

Eliana: Protest art conveys a strong and direct message. It also provokes thought and discussion. Sparking dialogue is key to sparking social and political change. I think protest art is valuable because of this.

Shayna: What was the response surrounding your art activism from your community and your peers? 

Eliana: I think it has been a positive response overall. I’m so lucky and grateful to live in NYC, which is such an open-minded and tolerant place. Most people here are not only willing but also excited to hear other people’s ideas, beliefs, and experiences.

Shayna: What type of mediums do you use to engage in a strong portrayal of protest art?

Eliana: I mostly use colored pencils. I also use acrylic paint and oil pastels. 

Shayna: What is your favorite type of protest art? Have you created anything specifically that represents it? If so, will you also attach an image?

Eliana: I don’t make this kind of protest art, but my favorite type is video and film. I really enjoy watching videos and films that amplify the voices of people from different walks of life and allow them to tell their stories. These films and videos make us aware of issues that we may not face ourselves, and they help us understand how public policy affects different people. I think it’s so important for us to learn about the experiences of others. This leads to a deeper understanding and more compassion. 

Shayna: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Eliana: I would tell them to be bold. It’s definitely intimidating to go against the status quo. Sparking change is never easy. However, it is also never impossible. 

© 2019 by Meddling Kids Movement