Progressive Artists That Inspire Change

Art has a way of touching our lives in ways that other forms of communication can’t. In fact, many works are created to send a positive message or to raise awareness. Here are some artists who make work that encourages us to live and eat well while taking care of our planet.

  • Fallen Fruit Collective: created by David Burns and Austin Young, Fallen Fruit makes artwork that tries to get people to understand where their food comes from and the political processes involved in food manufacturing today. One of their largest ongoing projects is their maps of fallen fruit. These maps track trees that belong to no one, where people can pick up food for free in order to sustain themselves.
  • Favianna Rodríguez: hailing from Oakland, California, Rodriguez is mostly known for her colorful screen prints that focus on immigration, gender equality, environmental rights, and economic inequities. She uses the power of her culture in order to present these issues in a critical light, to encourage others to take action, and to empower those who have the opportunity to look at her work.
  • Francisco Toledo: from Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico, Toledo uses his cultural background to raise awareness about his region in Mexico, which still preserves a lot of its indigenous heritage. Toledo’s paintings, sculptures, and graphics celebrate his heritage and the animals of his homeland. The consistent use of local flora and fauna in his works encourages us all to preserve this important part of our human heritage.
  • Jana Lynne Umipig: Umipig focuses her energy on creating artwork that helps people center themselves even after past trauma. She uses her Pilipino-American heritage to raise awareness about social justice issues, to empower women, and to spread healing through her work.  
  • Melanie Cervantes: Cervantes is from Harbor City, California, and is now based in San Francisco. Her work is known for its powerful graphics that pay tribute to immigrants’ rights, pay homage to workers, and support human rights causes of all kinds. She mostly does screen prints and graphics that use color and composition to give a voice to struggles for social justice.
  • Nicolas Lampert: Lampert is one of the many artists who works with the Justseeds collective (along with previously mentioned artists Favianna Rodríguez and Melanie Cervantes). Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his work deals with environmental justice, immigration, and the history of social justice movements. Lampert even creates posters that help activists achieve their social justice goals so they can win ecological battles.
  • Wangechi Mutu: from Brooklyn, NY, Mutu was born in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work explores the role of colonialism, as well as race and gender themes. Mutu is considered one of the most important African artists in the world, and her work has been exhibited in prestigious museums worldwide. She created Africa’s Out to encourage LGBT residents in the region to assert their rights and give them a platform through which they will be heard. Her work encourages us all to speak up.
  • Wendy Red Star: a prolific photographer, Red Star’s work uses humor to assert her Native American identity in terms of today. This challenges the Eurocentric notion that indigenous peoples are somewhat caught in the past instead of being a part of contemporary life. Her colorful work draws upon her culture while using influences known in mainstream art, such as Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, to remind viewers that Native American culture is still alive and well. 

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