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ARTE Student Voices: Can Art Change the World?

In efforts to begin a dialogue around the arts and social justice, we asked a few amazing young people to share their responses to the following prompt: 

Can art change the world? 

Essentially, do you think art can change people's lives? Do you think that art can affect the way we think about and uphold human rights? Or, can we make human rights change through art education? 

Their responses are listed below. We hope you will enjoy their thoughtful answers as much as we did. If you, or a young person you know, would also like to participate and be featured on our blog, please let us know. E-mail us

Michael Helou

I believe art in retrospect has the ability to change the world, and in specific, even an individual's life. In a broad sense, art has been a manner of expressing emotion and feeling since the caveman era. It is a tool that has been used to preserve history by telling a story. Art is also a manner in which people communicate in a very peaceful manner although some pieces of art can be perceived as dark and violent. Personally, art has brought so many opportunities in my life. It has shaped and chiseled me into a creative thinker. I feel more comfortable communicating my feelings through art then a normal conversation, thus, I have learned to channel certain emotions to create a variety of stories. Ultimately art is just that, a story that has the potential to inspire and change the world.

Art does not simply give someone power to affect the way people think. In a sense, art gives people the inspiration and sets the perfect environment to spark change. Art makes people think and question and essentially provides a new perspective to the viewer. This new perspective can spark controversy, forcing people to become less naive about certain issues such as human rights. Art has the power to peacefully instill motivation, inspiration, and new ideas in the viewer's mind and that is what can change the world and affect how others view human rights. 

For example, a man named Michael Volpicelli creates portraits of people who have made an impact on the world. These portraits are not just sketched out and displayed, rather he actually creates the drawing out of every inspirational and impacting quote that the person said. He has completed a particular portrait of Malala, who was an education activist. After advertising this young women in his piece of art, Michael Volpicelli has inspired many to donate to charity and give back to the community. Not only does art compel people to donate and give back to their society, but art can make people aware of individuals and events. I had had no idea who Malala was until I stumbled upon his drawing on Facebook and after researching her impact on society, it is evident that art is the best form of communication and perspective. 

Michael Helou is ARTE's 2014-2015 Boston Intern.

Laissa Christelle Alexis

Art is a very strong and effective tool. Art itself may not change the world. However, what it will do is inspire the people who see it. Words are our primary way of communicating. Sometimes words fail. Hearing about human rights, like sex trafficking and child labor, is not the same as experiencing it or seeing it in front of your eyes. Most people are visual learners and thinkers and sometimes, you need to see in front of you to believe it. Visually stunning images capture people’s minds and get them talking. They start to talk about the image. Why did the image hurt them, inspire them, move them, or bring them joy? The first step to changing something is always conversation. You have to start talking to start planning so you can start doing. Art can incite conversation and when the image is powerful, the conversation will be powerful, plans for change will be powerful, and the action will certainly be powerful as well. 

Laissa Christelle Alexis is a high school student at Saint Vincent Academy in Newark, New Jersey. She is involved in tons of school clubs and activities including her school’s Literary Magazine. She is part of the Newark Museum Science Explorer program for high school students. In her free time, she loves to read, sew and write on her blog, Build Your Castles in the Sky.

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