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What is Creative Expression for Social Justice?

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.

This contest seeks proposals for 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.

Category Specific Rules

The Creative Expression for Social Justice category is open to all matriculated undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley.  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

Category Specific Resources

C.R.E.A.T.E (Creative Residencies for Emerging Artists Teaching Empowerment)

Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice


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.

In-Kind Sponsors

The Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley
The Arts Research Center (ARC) fosters individual and collaborative research in the arts, supporting both published scholarship and new creative activity. ARC provides a forum to share, test, and critique new work by UC Berkeley artists, arts scholars, and visiting fellows.

Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley
The Townsend Center encourages an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship, fosters innovation in research, and promotes intellectual conversation among individuals from the humanities and related academic disciplines.