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Art & Activism

Can art effect social change?

How may we use the history of radical and avant-garde art to inform present-day movements of artistic and creative activism?

group of students pose in front of quilt
Students visiting the Stamp Gallery to view parts of the AIDS quilt

Explore the modern and contemporary history of political art on local, national, and global scales. Consider questions of creativity and social efficacy, as well as the role of institutions and the public. Discover the nature and radicality of different media – including mural painting, TV, sound, performance, and the Internet.

You can expect to:

  • Think critically about the forms and functions of art — how does art work? what can it do?
  • Study and debate the history of activist and political art.
  • Work in teams to plan and implement your own form of artistic or creative activism.


Carillon Faculty

headshot of Prof. McEwenAbigail McEwen, Associate Professor of Latin American art history, leads the Art and Activism community.  Professor McEwen has taught at College Park since 2010 and is a faculty affiliate of the Latin American Studies Center.

Professor McEwen studies the history of modern and contemporary Latin American art, specifically the arts of Cuba and Puerto Rico.  Her first book, Revolutionary Horizons: Art and Polemics in 1950s Cuba (Yale University Press, 2016), examines the politicization of abstract art by Havana’s avant-garde.  Past and ongoing projects consider the work of Afro-Cuban sculptor Agustín Cárdenas and Puerto Rican painters Olga Albizu and Myrna Báez.  She has collaborated on numerous exhibitions, including Streams of Being (Art Gallery and Art Museum of the Americas) and Concrete Cuba (David Zwirner). 

Community Course

ARTH260C: Art and Activism. You will discover the modern history of political art and creative activism, from the time of the Russian and Mexican Revolutions through the rise of Feminism, the Vietnam War, and Black Lives Matter. This course meets the General Education requirements of I-Series and either Humanities or Scholarship in Practice.

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