Crash Course In Activist Art Fall 2021



Welcome to A Crash Course In Activist Art!

Art has played an important role in social and political movements throughout history.  During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s a work of art as simple as a pink triangle on a black background with two well-chosen words inspired an activist movement that literally saved millions of lives worldwide and changed forever the way drugs are tested and approved in this country.   Their work made it possible for the current COVID vaccines to be developed and approved in record time.  Art has a way of fostering change in ways not easily understood or explained, it just does.

Over the next six weeks, you will be collaborating with Vashon artists West McLean and Peter Serko on a class project to create activist art that will culminate with an exhibition at the Blue Heron Art Center beginning in December.

West McLean is the artist responsible for the Vashon Remembrance Project.  His large paintings of African Americans killed by police are displayed on the exterior walls of VCA and in the windows of businesses in downtown Vashon.


Our goal is twofold:

  • Ground you in the activist art movement that arose out of the AIDS epidemic.
  • Help you create activist art (e.g., poster) of your own drawing on your experience with COVID. This could be an individual piece of art or work that's part of a group installation.  Other options could include art inspired by other social, ethical, environmental issues important to you.

This online component to the course will provide you with background information on activist art and AIDS activist art in particular.  The modules are short and often include a short video.  You will find many examples of activist art from the early years of the AIDS epidemic that have inspired and influenced many other movements since.  To quote Dr. Anthony Fauci,  "AIDS activists wrote the book on activism."  Many of the videos also feature the artists who created the iconic art of that era. We strongly encourage you to watch and review them in preparing to create activist art of your own.

What You'll Learn

  • 1 In Depth Look At AIDS in the 1980s
  • 2 5 Steps to making your own political/activist art
  • 3 AIDS and COVID
  • 4 AIDS Activists: ACT-UP
  • 5 What is Activist Art?
  • 6 Art drives a movement
  • 7 Power of the Poster
  • 8 Read My Lips: The story behind the iconic poster
  • 9 Performance Art
  • 10 Finding Inspiration…steal it
  • 11 Art in response to AIDS
  • 12 COVID Art Museum On Instagram