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Activism and Protest: Taking Creative Action | Activity

Like many artists and activists, Rupert García and Andy Warhol created posters to provoke audiences and show support for a particular cause. In this activity, students will think critically about protest, study poster design (especially the work of García and Warhol), identify an issue they care about, consider the pros and cons, and then create and publicly exhibit a poster.

Rupert García, Down with the Whiteness, 1969, color screenprint on wove paper, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Dennis Beall), 2015.19.3060

Andy Warhol, Jeff Wasserman, Gemini G.E.L., Vote McGovern, 1972, color screenprint on Arches 88 wove paper, Gift of Benjamin B. Smith, 1985.47.229

How might art be a vehicle to express support for an issue or advocate for a cause?

1.) What does protest mean to you? Distribute large sheets of paper with the word protest circled in the middle to small groups of students. Ask students to work together to write down words or phrases that come to mind when they think about protest. Ask each group to share the results of their “protest map.”

2.) Share digital or physical reproductions of García’s Down with the Whiteness and Andy Warhol’s Vote McGovern with small groups of students (only one work per group). Ask students to identify the parts of the image (its pieces and components; be specific), the purpose of the work of art (what it is for, why it might have been made), and what they wonder about the work (any questions they have). Then have groups with different images share their thoughts with each other. (Adapted from a Project Zero thinking routine.)

related-resources

All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50

Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on the Black Panther Party

FBI files on the Black Panther Party

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

3.) Bring together the students and provide more information and context about how and why Rupert García and Andy Warhol created these works. Deepen the discussion by inviting students to conduct research about the Black Panther Party, the 1972 presidential election, and why García and Warhol took the positions they did. Discuss whether the students think these works of art were successful forms of protest.

4.) As a large group, generate a list of current events in the news. These issues might be of local, regional, or national significance, but they should be complex issues that the students care about. Examples might include universal health care, transgender rights, or immigration. Use a democratic method (e.g., sticker voter) to identify an issue that students care about most.

related-resources

Pointing Their Pens: Herblock and Fellow Cartoonists Confront the Issues

Nixon Wins Landslide Victory; Democrats Hold Senate, House

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 

Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1972

5.) Return students to small groups to identify opposing sides of the issue and generate a pros and cons list for each side using news articles and research. Students will then individually compose a position statement: where do they stand on the issue? They must use evidence from trusted news sources and studies to bolster their position, but they should also talk about why this issue matters to them, why it might matter to the people around them (e.g., family, friends, classmates, and neighbors), and why it might matter to the world. (Adapted from a Project Zero thinking routine.)

6.) Next, students will brainstorm memorable phrases, sayings, symbols, and imagery related to their issue that can be simply and clearly represented in a poster. How will they distill their position into a visual statement? Who will the audience for their poster be, and how will the poster be persuasive and memorable? Avoid clichés, such as smiley faces and peace signs. Incorporate time for feedback and improvement.

7.) Create posters using whatever mediums you have at hand, and then as a class determine how and when you would like to share them publicly. Could they be exhibited in your school, or is there an opportunity to use them in a public space outside your school to advocate for your cause? How might you use your posters to spark discussion or dialogue with others?

8.) Reflect: How successful was your public display of your posters? Do you think marches and protests make a difference? What would you do differently next time?