Great question! The arts are a wonderful way to make a difference in the world because they are fun, engaging, and oftentimes help you to tell stories, all key elements to attracting and keeping people involved in a cause.
Here are some examples of ways people have used the arts to create social impact:
50 Crows Social Change Photography
"Images inspire people to act. Examples of socially rousing photography permeate our history: Vietnam, Rwanda, 9-11’s Ground Zero. Unfortunately, mainstream media narratives often work to envelop public perspective on these seminal issues by presenting limited viewpoints and images. Due to the fact that the focus of these media corporations is on creating profits rather than social justice, the many answers that we demand as conscious global citizens become conditional.
FiftyCrows Foundation eschews these media politics and prioritizes social awareness by using arrestingly real, timely photographic images as a catalyst for education, cultural understanding and social action."Aid to Artisans
"Aid to Artisans (ATA), an international nonprofit organization, is a recognized leader of economic development for the craft industry. By linking artisans to new markets and buyers to culturally meaningful and innovative products, ATA provides needed economic opportunities to artisans while preserving the beauty of global handmade crafts."
Arts and Healing Network
"Arts and Healing Network is an on-line resource celebrating the connection between art and healing. Our web site serves as an international resource for anyone interested in the healing potential of art, especially environmentalists, social activists, artists, art professionals, health care practitioners, and those challenged by illness. Our hope is that the information presented here will educate and inspire."
Art in Action Youth Leadership Training
"Art in Action Youth Leadership Program uplifts and transforms the lives of young artists impacted by violence and poverty. Our annual summer camps and year-round programs create hope and opportunity through socially relevant popular education, community-building, and creative expression geared toward developing solutions. Art in Action provides a supportive, positive place for young leaders to cultivate leadership through dance, theater, music, spoken word/poetry, painting, storytelling, and media arts."
Artivist Film Festival
"'ARTIVIST' is the first international film festival and awards dedicated to addressing Human Rights, Children's Advocacy, Environmental Preservation, and Animal Rights. Our mission is to strengthen the voice of activist artists - 'Artivists' - while raising public awareness for social global causes."
"EMANCIPATE is an initiative led by women musicians who are activists in their communities with the goal of solidarity, amplification of social justice issues and collaboration towards solutions. We use song as a tool for organizing in communities around the country."
Free Range Studio
"We're a team of passionate, wildly creative people who spend our days strategizing, branding and designing so the most important social messages get through loud and clear.
Free Range is known for being the most successful cause-based viral movie makers ever. Sure, we created The Meatrix and Grocery Store Wars. But those projects are just the most public face of our portfolio that includes print, web and strategy materials for the planet's most influential non-profits, political campaigns and socially responsible businesses."Participant Media
"Participant believes that a good story well told can truly make a difference in how one sees the world. Whether it is a feature film, documentary or other form of media, Participant exists to tell compelling, entertaining stories that also create awareness of the real issues that shape our lives."
Power to the Peaceful Festival (founded by musician, Michael Franti)
"Power to the Peaceful is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of cultural co-existence, non-violence and environmental sustainability through the arts and music.
By bringing people together through music and art it is our goal to highlight the similarities and celebrate the diversity of all of the world’s inhabitants."
Shalini Kantayya's 7th Empire Media
"The mission of 7th Empire Media is to bring a professional voice to the unheard through media. 7th Empire is a full-scale production company committed to creating original high-quality film, video, and interactive media that raise social awareness, stimulate critical dialogue, and celebrate the diverse voices of an ever-changing world."
"Through the power of storytelling, Streetside values and cultivates young people’s voices, fostering educational equity and building community, literacy and arts skills."
Photojournalist Paola Gianturco's book, Women Who Light the Dark.
"Around the world, local women are helping one another tackle the problems that darken their lives—domestic violence, sex trafficking, war, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination, inequality, malnutrition, disease.
These women may lack material resources, but they possess a wealth of an even more precious resource: imagination. And their imaginations light the dark."
Santa Fe International Folk Art Market
"The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market is the largest international folk art market in the world, and our success led to Santa Fe’s designation as a UNESCO City of Folk Art, the first U.S. city named to UNESCO’s prestigious Creative Cities Network. . . . Sales at the Market directly benefit artists and their families and help sustain communities worldwide."
I'd love to hear your examples in the comments!
You can email your question (please keep it to 50 words) about the do-good, or artistic work you are doing, or want to do, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Title your email, "Ask Britt: your question topic." I won't post your name, but I will post your question with my answer, so keep that in mind as you write, if you don't want details in your question to identify you.
Full disclosure: The number of ways these examples are biased is too many to list. Just an fyi (:
Photo taken by me at March 2003 Iraq War protest in Oakland, CA