I am bursting with the news that we’ve helped develop a Smithsonian museum exhibit about artistic activism called The Utopia Project. It finally just opened this week! I was lucky enough to be at the opening celebration with hundreds of people who were as excited as I was to be immersed in an interactive space all about creativity + social change. We offer a little peek at the exhibit down below, but I hope you get to see it in person in Washington DC. If you do, shoot me an email - I’d love to know what you think of it.
Center for Artistic Activism
The Utopia Project
Museum staff Maps and Sol invite visitors into The Utopia Project exhibit, which is divided into 5 areas: Feel, Dream, Gather Your Tools, Act and Reflect.
In collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, we helped to create The Utopia Project: Inspiration for Creative Activism, an interactive gallery experience all about creative activism.
For over 50 years, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum has exposed injustices and has provided a platform for under-told stories in their Washington, D.C. community. They have fantastic examples of art and social change, but they asked us to help them create as space that will deconstruct the reasons why social change happens, to help their visitors feel activated and inspired.
Visitors draw on the Dream wall, imagining the future they want.
Through a series of interactive experiences, visitors tap into the issues they care about and then envision their own version of a utopia in an immersive “Dream Space.” Here, visitors are asked to imagine, with all obstacles removed, a world beyond the problem at hand to the awe-inspiring end goal. With that image of success in mind, they discover the research-informed tactics that have most often led to measurable social change.
The maker space in the exhibit invites visitors to design and manifest the actions they want to take.
Central is the maker space - where dreams become actions. With everything from cardboard and tape to Legos and whiteboards, visitors are invited to prototype their ideas for making a better world. Last is a reflection space to internalize the experience and prepare to activate in the real world.
The central message of the exhibit is:
Activism at its best is creative and innovative. You can bring your own creativity to your activism and make it more effective.
The Utopia Project exhibit gives you tools, inspiration, and a creative studio to hone your skills and figure out what to do next.
The Utopia Project is at the Anacostia Community Museum from Nov 1, 2022 - March 1, 2023.
Let’s Make Another One!
Now that we’ve seen how people respond so enthusiastically to this physical manifestation of our work, we’re itching to make more exhibits. Contact us if you know someone who would like to create an interactive experience about creativity and social change!
The soup protesters grabbed the world’s attention. But were they effective?
Do you feel the recent soup protests have been effective? Our co-founder and Research Director, Steve Duncombe, wrote about his take in an Op-Ed in The Guardian. He says,
I believe the intentions of the Just Stop Oil activists were sincere and their action was not meant to be self-serving, but a week after their intervention, what is being discussed: the actions of the activists or the causes they support? (Mea culpa.)
My aim here is not to judge tactics as right or wrong. Any tactic can be the right one to use in the right context. Our planet must be saved by any means necessary. If this requires gluing oneself to a museum wall, so be it. If it takes throwing food at a painting, bravo. It may even entail burning a museum down altogether. (This is something the renowned artist activist Alfredo Jarr once did in Skoghall, Sweden, in order stimulate the citizenry’s desire to demand a real museum – and it worked!)
But the means must always lead to the desired ends. Using tactics without thinking of how they will be understood by your audiences and what impact that will have on realizing your objectives is, at best, a waste of time and energy, and at worst, counter productive.
The Third World Guiding the First
One of the projects we featured in The Utopia Project exhibit is Ghana Think Tank, one of our favorite examples of activism that doesn’t feel like activism. Ghana ThinkTank describes itself is an international collective that “develops the first world” by flipping traditional power dynamics, asking the “third world” to intervene in the lives of the people living in the so-called “developed” world.
Steve Lambert and Maria del Carmen Montoya of Ghana Think Tank, at The Utopia Project exhibit opening.
Support Artistic Activism
Our work would not be possible without the support of our community. As an ever-growing force for social change, we need YOU to join us. Will you consider supporting artistic activism across the country and around the world with a gift today? — Every single contribution is meaningful.