Living at the intersection of the arts and human rights
Updated: Aug 14, 2018
I have the unfortunate inability to snap. But if I could, I would have been snapping like crazy at the Amnesty International Art for Amnesty campaign relaunch back in March. Officially started in 2002, but continuing traditions that have been in place throughout the organization’s history, Art for Amnesty coordinates and encourages collaborations with artists to bring creative support to humans rights issues and increase awareness. At ARTE, our passion and mission lie at the intersection of the arts and human rights, and to be in a ballroom full of people who are committed to the same thing was undoubtedly inspiring and energizing.
The event brought together artists from all sides of the spectrum, such as Harry Belafonte and Piper Kerman, author of “Orange is the New Black,” but one of the most memorable speakers was Favianna Rodriguez, a dynamic force who truly exemplifies the term “artivist.” Rodriguez, a Latina woman and visual artist born of Peruvian immigrant parents, uses her bold, graphic imagery to advocate for immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, racial equality, and a slew of other issues she is palpably passionate about. In her talk, she explained the importance of art as a tool of empowerment. Art allows the creator to represent the complex, multidimensional identities of people whose voices “have been stripped away” by prejudice, stereotypes, and systemic oppression. However, Rodriguez challenges artists and their communities to not just focus on the negative. Discrimination manifests itself in many ways, which must be recognized and understood, but art has the power to transform “no” people into “yes” people. Instead of an identity that is linked to what has been denied or is absent, it gives space to create an identity that is linked to the positive, celebrating the vibrancy and individuality that stereotypes often stifle. Art is a source of empowerment that can offer an alternative narrative for those marginalized by society as it is.
Our students at Pan American International High School have been developing their mural project, which focuses on themes of immigrant rights and racial discrimination, so Rodriguez’s work has proven to be a very relevant jumping-off point for class discussion. We have studied her “Migration is Beautiful” campaign and other pro-migrant art, and it has had a significant effect on our work, especially as our students all come from Latino immigrant families. Next Wednesday, June 10th, our students at Pan American will host a community showcase to unveil their mural and talk about their work and the important issues behind it. Given her influence on this project and embodiment of ARTE’s arts and human rights mission, we have started a scholarship fund in Favianna Rodriguez’s name to support the continued education of one of our passionate student leaders.
ARTE is incredibly grateful to the artist for her generosity in lending her name to this very special award, and would like to invite you to directly support our students by contributing to the scholarship fund. Until June 9th, ARTE will be accepting additional donations, which can be made electronically to the following address: www.gofundme.com/artescholarship. The Favianna Rodriguez Education Award will be awarded on Wednesday, June 10th at the Pan American International High School, at a mural unveiling ceremony that is open to the public.