Pamela Shifman and Anna Quinn

We are honored to have the opportunity to view and reflect upon the works that were submitted as part of the Arts Option of the Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative.

Taken as a whole, these works demonstrate the immense power of art and creative expression to chart a path towards a safer and more just world for everyone, and for girls and women in particular.

From the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, to the movement currently demanding an end to racialized police violence, there is a rich history of the role of art in struggles for social justice and human rights.By sharing their work, participants claim their place in the legacy of artists and activists who have used their art in service of social change.

Art humanizes complex social issues, and creates opportunities for the audience to empathize with the artist and her subject matter. In helping us connect with the humanity of others, art helps us understand what oppression robs us of, and offers a window into what is possible when everyone can live in their full power, free of violence and oppression.

One of the most destructive qualities of violence is that it serves to defy the voice, individuality, and full humanity of the victim. The threat of violence can serve as a powerful deterrent to imagination and creative thinking. In this context, creative expression is a powerful tool for resistance and healing.

As audience members witnessing the risks that have been taken by the artists, we take on a responsibility not to look away, and instead to continue to reflect and engage. This opportunity to involve the entire community is crucial, because ultimately sexual violence is a community problem stemming from the continued devaluation of girls and women in society.

Against a broader social context of injustice, creating and sharing artwork is a bold political act and a gift from the artists to their community.


Pamela Shifman and Anna Quinn
NoVo Foundation


« Back to Commentary page

Read next commentary: Deborah Cullen »