Using Art to Bring About Social Change

I’m a firm believer in the power of art to enact lasting social change. I think that artistic expression has the ability to move hearts and minds, to motivate people to go out and change things for the better. This is why I’m so excited to be working here at Fiege Films this summer, because I get to have a real and tangible impact on working to bring about social and environmental justice through the art that I’m helping to create.

In an increasingly polarized society, in which it’s becoming difficult to even have a calm conversation with people of different political viewpoints, I believe that that art is especially important. We’ve seen that simply spouting facts and figures about things can have little effect on changing people’s perspectives, but I think what’s so compelling and powerful about art is that it transcend these biases.

I think often about how to bridge these ideological gaps and about how I personally can reach out to people of disparate political persuasions and understand their perspectives, and I think art is a perfect way to do this.

Take, for example, this piece that Fiege Films put out for Greenpeace. Called “Born on the Island,” it’s part of the series “Postcards from Climate Change” that uses filmmakers to tell personal stories about people affected by the radical changes our planet is currently undergoing.  

Statistics and research can often be dehumanizing. They can make you forget about the real people that are experiencing them. But when you tell a story, when you put a face to a name, I think it makes things more powerful, and people are more apt to care.  

Our last feature film, “Above All Else,” is another great, practical example of doing this: telling a personal story about a polarizing, broad issue. 

It’s easy to hear about a story in the national news, and to be told to think one way or another about it, but when you get the chance to actually meet and spend time with people, to understand how they think and what’s important to them, and to empathize with their struggle, it becomes totally different.

Especially in this current political moment, we can get trapped in our own sociopolitical bubbles. It’s comfortable; we like to be around people and ideas that complement our own. But it’s not healthy. We need to be cognizant of other perspectives, to search out ideas that expose our own biases.

Art that is personal, uncomfortable, and compelling is more important now than ever. Well-told stories that transcend the usual narratives are essential to bringing about social change. By focusing on the marginalized, the overlooked, the forgotten, we as a society can make things better for everyone, and avoid the trap of being comfortably ignorant and complicit.