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What is “Art & Social Change”?

Many artists today are deeply committed to making work that addresses pressing social issues and changes the way we perceive the world. While some artists use traditional forms of visual, literary, or performing arts to make work that comments on, responds to, or advocates for the need for change, others are exploring new forms of “social practice” that engages communities in an interactive exchange. In the latter category, an artwork might take the form of a store, a garden, a meal, a website, a street performance, a story exchange, or an urban planning project. Socially engaged art can ignite outrage and demands for change, and/or provide a platform for reflection, collaboration, and building community. It can focus on the residents of a single city block, or reach out to a global audience.

The Challenge

The challenge for this category is to develop an innovative art projects that meaningfully engage with issues of advocacy, justice, and community-building. The projects may use any art form—visual/conceptual art, photography, new media, video, dance, theater/performance art, music, creative writing, or other forms. Art must be central to the project, and the proposal must reflect an informed understanding of the particular art form(s) being used, as well as of the communities being served.

Examples of proposals that would fit into this category include (but are not limited to):

  • Development of an after school expressive arts program that aims to provide a safe space and creative outlet to elementary school students who live in under-resourced communities.
  • Production of a documentary that raises awareness about public health consequences, detrimental social impact, and cost of imprisonment.
  • Development of a community garden that seeks to build community relationships in diverse neighborhoods.


The “Art & Social Change” category is open to all matriculated undergraduate and graduate students from the following campuses:

  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Los Angeles
  • UC Merced
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC San Francisco
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • College of William and Mary
  • Duke University
  • Makerere University (Uganda)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Michigan State University
  • Texas A&M University




Multidisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged.   For additional information about general contest rules, timing and how to apply, please refer to the Contest Application Requirements.

Past Winners

Vibrant Aging

We Are Suba!

Youth Leadership Now

More Winners


The Creative Expression for Social Justice Category is funded, in part, by the Incremental Student Services Fee with the purpose of expanding Big Ideas@Berkeley to support and cultivate the use of the creative arts in the pursuit of social justice.  Enabling students to develop a creative voice in service to building community and justice is congruent with the values of our campus community and an important to developing the change makers and social entrepreneurs of the next generation.