Okay, peeps: I’m working on a project, and I need some help.

In a nutshell, I have to explain to a room full of non-arts people why arts grants are important, and why art isn’t just some highfalutin’ elitist nonsense. To make this happen, I’m looking for a few examples of “art moments” in America–paintings, novels, poems, films, dances, plays–that have led to larger change.

Off the top of my head, I thought of Shepherd Fairey and his iconic “Hope” poster that helped galvanize the Obama campaign. (Which is notable whether or not you supported Obama.) I also thought of Raisin in the Sun and The Laramie Project, both of which helped spread awareness of social injustice and framed discussions of civil rights.

Moments don’t necessarily need to be that big–in fact, a couple of smaller ones would be nice. I’m simply looking for art events that have had an effect outside the art world.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions, please pass them on. I’d greatly appreciate it….

0 thoughts on “

  1. Bigezbear

    Off the top of my head:The Great Train Robbery, film, directed by Edwin S. Porter (1903)- jump-started movies in America291 (Art Gallery), founded by Alfred Stieglitz (1905-1917)- exposed America to photographers Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, et al, and artists such as Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Brancusi, Duchamp, and moreMartha Graham (1894-1991), pioneer of modern dance


  2. spazmodeas

    Upton Sinclair wrote the novel The Jungle in 1906. The public response lead to the eventual establishment of the Food and Drug Administration.


  3. spazmodeas

    I Thought of another one. The “Rosie the Riveter” posters and song (released by Kay Kyser in 1943, according to Wikipedia) led to many women going to work to support the economy and war effort during World War II.


  4. Bigezbear

    Omigod! The WPA!The WPA gave us the Federal Theatre which fostered the talents of Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, and may more.It also established the “Artists Project” which gave work to such artists as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollack.It was also responsible for the documentary photography of the Great Depression by such notables as Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange, and Walker Evans.


  5. Benjamin

    The one that pops off the top of me head is , bien sur, Todd Haynes’ “Poison” (which does what art is supposed to do – challenge mainstream perspective) and how the NEA backed the film based solely on criteria stating the film was neither obscene nor prurient, while the usual suspects (Donald Wildmon, Pat Robertson…) condemned the film as porno for sodomites.


  6. Jack in New Orleans

    Coco’s “Little Black Dress”. You might have to go into the whole “Is fashion really art?” but you’re a big mo and I bet you could pull it off.


  7. Jack in New Orleans

    Oh, and George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say on Television”. The bit was part of a Supreme Court case that affected the powers of the FCC. I don’t remeber the exact details but it’s only 7:30 in the morning.


  8. filmdango

    “Friends” is credited with making America laugh again after 9/11 (sitcoms as art might work well with the non-artsy grant giving crowd).Anne Frank’s diary is a work of art that became the definitive way children learn about the Holocaust.


  9. Geoffrey

    Don’t forget about the guerilla art that emerged in response to HIV/AIDS. I’m thinking especially of films such as “Silverlake Life” and grassroots movement such as the AIDS quilt, both of which provided faces to what were otherwise a bunch of statistics.I hope you’re well, Richard! Are you ever going to visit DC?


  10. tphinsf

    WPA photographers, (e.g., Bernice Abbot, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, etc.) whose work communicated the plight of victims of the Depression and the Dust Bowl and paved the way for acceptance of the New Deal. Later, of course, the power of photography was used by the government to help mobilize the country for WWII — a plus or a negative, depending upon one’s view.”Uncle Tom’s Cabin” significantly contributed to the moral life in the 19th century and had a major impact in generating the awareness that allowed the Civil War to happen.”Oliver Twist” helped reform attitudes towards poverty in general and led to laws protecting children from hard labor.The Vietnam Memorial by Maya Lin is a great example of intensely controversial art having the power to heal a country.And more negatively, but in some ways, more powerful examples, the propaganda art that’s been used historically since ancient times to portray leaders in a certain way, to vilify an enemy, or make heroic a national cause (Leni Riefenstahl)Eadweard Muybridge — example of art contributing to science, specifically motion studies (the trotting horse) and influenced the development of motion pictures.


  11. Benjamin

    Hey, Richard — If you’re still looking for examples, Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” certainly set the culture on its ear.Publication of “The Jungle” in 1906 (?) certainly brought about change in the labor movement and meatpacking industries. If I recall my college courses correctly, he was given a grant or stipend to write the book. (Quick Wiki check says that’s accurate, but it is Wiki…)Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line” resulted in Randall Dale Adams being released from prison and his murder conviction overturned.I think you could also probably make a case for “Paris is Burning” indelibly leaving its mark all over pop culture (RuPaul referenced it on “Drag Race” and it’s been almost 20 years since it was released.


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