Artist as Activist

Designed by a student from Loyola when the class was offered there.

This class explores the connections and intersections between the arts, imagination, social change and civic engagement. It is being offered at the DePaul Art Department in the Winter of 2010. Here is the syllabus.

Here’s the blurb for the class from the syllabus:

The course is based on the premise that creativity is an essential component of a vital democracy.  We will explore the idea of creativity as a national value capable of driving public policy and civic engagement. Students will be introduced to the concept of the Creative Economy, which generates over $1 trillion in annual revenues in the U.S. The class will explore several ways to be an organizer around issues of culture and creativity. During this course students are given an introduction to community organizing strategies and tactics and will be exposed to the work of social change leaders who use the arts as their primary role of intervention. These practitioners are collectively known as Interventionists. This class combines readings, class exploration and an out-of-class research project where students will pick a social change organization that is meaningful to them, research that issue and do a performance/artistic-based presentation on that issue.

The Winter 2010 version of this class for the DePaul Art Department placed teams of students at four community organizations: The Beacon Street Gallery, The Perry Street Cultural Center, Rumble Arts and Arts of Life. Here is the promotional video produced by the students working with Arts of Life.

Here is the report from the 2007 version of this class that was offered for the Loyola Theatre Department. Here are some comments from students who took that class:

Student Comments

The students created original poetry and art to express their reflections after the class was over. These comments (below) were made in anonymous evaluations and on their final exams.


“This class is crazy. all of my art teachers think this teacher is a lunatic. This morning I am about to launch a giant banner. SHIT IS SERIOUSLY CRAZY–and I think I’m going to learn a lot. and I have already.”

“Thanks so much for this class and opportunities. I really enjoyed it. It is definitely one of the best courses that I have participated in at Loyola.”

“I really enjoyed learning about different artists and their methods for activism. I thought it was great how much Mr. Tresser put into getting us interviews with different artists and activists during class–we were not just reading about them, but talking to them! As a visual artist, I was very inspired by Banksy and his sneaky street art form.”

“This was a great class. It was different and made me think about a variety of topics. Professor Tresser is so passionate and open to opportunity. It was great to have his energy and enthusiasm. I strongly recommend keeping this class at Loyola.”

“I enjoyed this class. It incorporated a lot of Loyola’s values and how to apply them to clubs, classes, and being an active citizen. I highly recommend it. It was interesting learning about popular and influential activists in the nation.”

“To say that I learned a lot almost seems like an understatement. I would definitely have to say that this experience was one of the best ones I have had in my 4 years at Loyola”


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