Can Art Change Your Perspective on Important Issues?

| September 24, 2013 | 43 Comments
  • Share:
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Email
image from

image from

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace and end it with #DoNowOlek

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

Do Now

If you see an artwork that addresses an important issue, does it compel you to form a stronger opinion? Does crochet artist Olek’s newest public art project in Russia, made in support of the LGBT community, inspire you to think more deeply about global issues around equality? Has any artwork resonated with you in a way that made you consider your own political perspectives? If so, please share a link or something original.


Street artist Olek works in the medium of crochet, covering landmarks, cars, people, and even freight trains a colorful camouflage pattern that is often infused with strong statements, sometimes of a political nature. I met Olek recently, when she was creating new work in San Francisco, and when I asked her what she stands for, she replied quickly, “Anything that is right.”

Last week, Olek created a public installation in Russia in response to the government’s recent decision against gay rights. The piece, installed at the entrance of a shopping center, has a rainbow-colored backdrop, and two figures covered in crocheted yarn. In her recent Huffington Post articlet, Olek explains, “I transformed the human form into a new species. Once a person enters the crocheted skin, their race, color, ethnicity, even sexuality become irrelevant, camouflaged; they are transformed into citizens of Olek’s world, where everyone is free. My camouflage, hand-crocheted rainbow stands for love, freedom, friendship, independence, liberty, ability to pursue dreams, integrity, and equal rights.” Creating this work in Russia was risky and Olek was nearly arrested and met with negative reactions, but she persisted in representing her solidarity with the LGBT community. This type of art “action” inspires awareness and dialogue about important global issues.

Check out a recent episode of PBS Off Book, featuring interviews with Olek and Swoon (another influential female street artist) to see more examples of public artwork, and to gain a better understanding of the artists’ intentions. Please note that this video should be pre-screened by teachers before showing to students, and includes mature language.


PBS Off Book video Street Art – Sept. 27, 2011
The street is a space where art thrives, and a place where artists can shape the public aesthetic. Olek, a sculptor whose medium is crochet, and Swoon, a mixed media artist, disrupt daily life with work that creates wonder, emotion, and humor. Equally at home in museums and galleries, both artists also create installations that challenge the formats of traditional art spaces. With powerful layers of meaning, beautiful aesthetics, and using unique media, these two prolific creators are pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. Please note that this video should be pre-screened by teachers before showing to students, and includes mature language.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowOlek

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

KQED Spark video and educator guide to Mission District Street Art
San Francisco’s Mission District is home to a high concentration of street art, bearing witness to an artistic community as vibrant as it is diverse. A heady mix borrowed in equal parts from the Mexican muralistas, 1930s WPA murals, graffiti, skater graphics, hip hop, and the alternative comics that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, the street art of the Mission reflects the concerns, aspirations, celebration, and anguish of a dynamic and vital neighborhood. Spark takes a tour through the Mission’s famous decorated streets.

KQED Spark video and educator guide to Favianna Rodriguez
For more than a decade, Favianna Rodriguez has been creating posters and graphics supporting social justice movements and political activism. Carrying on the tradition of the Chicano arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Rodriguez is part of a new generation of artists devoted to public awareness and community involvement in grassroots causes.

KQED Art School video In the Studio with Aisha Fukushima
Aisha Fukushima grew up writing creatively and experiencing hip hop music around the word. As an adult, she’s channeled her love for music into a social activist project called Raptivism that involves education, recording and performing music, and creating an online dialogue centered around social justice issues.

Explore: , , , , ,

Category: Do Now, Do Now: Art and Popular Culture

  • Share:
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Email

About the Author ()

Kristin Farr is KQED's Arts Education Manager. She is the creator and producer of the Emmy Award-winning video series, Art School, which brings audiences into artists' studios to learn about contemporary art, and engages learners with ideas for new ways to get creative. She is also an artist and a contributing editor for Juxtapoz Magazine.
  • lauhayes

    Art can change a person’s perspective on an issue because it not only forces the person to recognize that there is an issue with some aspect of society, but also gives the person the opportunity to think about the issue in a different way. For instance this piece of street art ( ) depicts that poverty issues exceed far beyond the homeless people we see on the streets. Though many people perceive poverty to be an individual issue, this piece of art helps demonstrate that poverty is a problem at an institutional level and cannot be solved simply by giving spare coins to the homeless. This piece of art reinforces the necessity in reforming aspects of our society such as welfare and unemployment so that we change and improve things for people on a grand scale as opposed to giving our spare change to one person. #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

    • Nancy Barile

      @lauhayes – WOW! What a truly amazing piece of artwork! Brilliant!

    • Victoria Guarino

      I agree that street art can influence someone’s views on a political or social issue. It is very interesting to look at an artists piece of artwork not only with an artistic eye but with an open mind. In particular, this piece of artwork definitely caught my attention and made me stop and think about the issue behind it, if I saw this in the street I would definitely stop and look at it. The artist definitely thought about the message he was trying to convey with the word change, applying to both social change and money. It is a really cool and powerful piece of art work. #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

  • John Carnabucci

    Art is a very interesting medium to discuss political and social issues with. Words can only get across so much. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Art can really express and show the gravity of a certain political or social issue. An image can be so striking that it will illuminate a issue that may have been lost in the hustle and bustle of life. A good example of this is Banksy’s graffiti depicting a small child with a ballon, and the words “no future” above her ( This Image really resonates with me and really shows the social circumstances some of our youth are faced with. This image reveals a world where children’s fates have been decided by circumstances completely out of their control. This type of art can really awaken people to the problems in society. #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

    • Noelle MacDonald

      Definitely a very powerful image! You mention how art can be used to awaken people to the problems of society, specifically to the struggles faced by youth. Do you think that art can also be used to portray possible solutions to such problems, rather than just raising awareness? #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

  • John Carnabucci

    It’s interesting that you bring up the fact that people are forced to confront street art. I believe that to be true. However, do you believe that this confrontation brings about a positive or negative response from society? Does society learn to accept these culturally different people, or does this forced confrontation only create more reason to separate from these other humans? #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

  • Daniel

    Art has always been a voice for the voiceless, an output for the public. Graffiti and Street Art are a perfect examples of the public expressing their views on political or any other area that the views of the public are not heard. The renowned artist, Banksy is prime example of the public reaching out to have their voice noticed and heard. In this piece ( ) there are two soldiers, one covering the other soldier while he sprays the peace sign on a wall. This image shows society’s view of soldiers on the battlefield, though ordered to serve and kill to protect others, troops would rather solve issues peacefully than have bloodshed. From PTSD ( Post Tramatic Stress Disorder) to physical injuries, these battle scars would be enough to back the art piece’s meaning. #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

  • Noelle MacDonald

    Art plays a vital role in altering or reinforcing political and social perspectives. In many cases, artwork addresses issues in greater depth and detail than the verbal or written word alone, can. Visual displays force people to confront issues that they may have otherwise ignored by presenting the information in a unique and thought provoking way. One artistic project that had a particularly strong impact on me was the Social Tattoo Project ( ). People involved in the movement tattoo images on their body that represent some of the most pressing problems in society. Their mission is to inspire “permanent empathy” rather the fleeting concern for worldwide issues. The use of the human body as art reinforces the connection between people from all over the world and symbolizes a shared concern for problems. One tattoo that was especially impactful to me was the human trafficking one. It enlightened me to an issue that affects millions of lives worldwide, even though its not common in my own country. #KQEDEDspace #DoNowOlek #BarileClass

  • John Rubenacker

    I’m a bit of an artist myself but most artistic statements like this don’t really do anything for me. I generally think words are a lot more powerful when used properly and although these works of art are usually nice looking they really don’t influence me at all. Maybe it’s the fact that I already agree that gay people should have equality, but the crochet work here doesn’t really speak to me. #smesfilms.

  • Chase H

    I believe that art can be a very real way to change opinions of important issues. While I’m not going to start a online pro-gay revolution movement in Russia, I think the reason behind Olek’s artwork is interesting. The idea that everyone is equal has been around for a long time, and artwork has been around even longer makes it a great way to convey beliefs. So, in my opinion, yes art can change my perspective on important issues.

  • Kennady Paige

    As an artist, I do believe that art can change a person’s view on certain aspects of life. In my opinion, this artist is a modern day hippie in an extremely good way. I think that every thing she stands for is great; I believe in every thing she stated. I feel like now and days, more emotion is expressed in art and more thoughts are produced from the evaluation of soulful art. Most of the time perspectives are based on personal experiences and a person’s opinion on events. art does change people’s perspectives. :)

  • Kennady Paige

    The issues this particular art work was expressing is the Gay Rights events that are going on. They are killing people because they suspect they are gay. This art was placed there to let people in Russia that every one is equal. :)

  • Jasmine Stovall


    To certain people it could have different meanings. Art may not inspire you but it could inspire someone else, it is a beauty of the art and the viewers opinionthat matters. I have seen art that would make me dream a good dream and to someone else it could give them the ideas to change and morf the world.

  • Norisha Edge

    I think art can change my perspective on important issues because art can be a way on how people express their feelings emotionally, naturally, and politically. The crochet artist Olek’s newest public art project in Russia support of the LGBT community does inspire me to think more deeply about global issues around equality. No artwork has resonated with me in a way that made me consider my own political perspectives.

  • Cierra Hill

    art does in a way express different meanings. but depending on how detail and amazing the artist was determines the person ability to pick up an imagination or feeling for that particular graffiti or art piece.

  • Brianna Harden

    I agree that street art can help people recognize the political and societal issues that are often not paid any attention. People tend to feel like these issues are out of their control so instead of attempting to solve these problems they just ignore them. By putting art that depicts these issues on the streets and in locations where ‘average’ people will see it, the people notice that these are problems that they can help to solve.

  • Brianna Stephens

    Art can totally change your whole perspective. I love that art can sometimes tell a story. I love that art can inspire anyone, even in the LGBT community. People may sometimes take it the wrong way, but it still inspires.

  • Nick visconti

    I think that art can definitely make you change your mind on an issue, especially if the artist uses lots of symbolism. For example, this art is colorful and represents the LGBT community. By showing all these bright colors the artist almost forces you to connect lots of colors with LGBT people. Now when you consider an issue like this, you think about the art and it can make you think differently about something

  • Isaac Scarborough

    I believe art can influence and change your opinions on things if done right. The bright and flamboyant colors, coupled with the rhythm and pattern can help grab your attention for both the artwork and then about the LGBT community.

  • Camdon Hisey

    Art can most definitely change make people want to do something. For example all of the propaganda during WW2.

  • Dakota Brooke

    The issues that we consider “important” in my opinion, go much deeper than art. So I think i the idea seeing an artwork about an important issue it shouldn’t change your opinion on that issue.

  • Lane

    Personally art does not change my mind on an issue, mostly because I look into the issues myself, yet I do believe it is a creative way to have people dive head first into the issue by using beauty and just art. There are some people out there who no matter what you do, like myself, you can not change their minds.

  • Cole Reinhold

    I’m guessing art has the possibility to change someone’s opinion on an issue. As for myself I couldn’t really see it doing anything to me if I already had an idea of what I believed in. But if it was an issue I had no opinion on it could probably sway my opinion.

  • Ben

    I don’t think it should change your perspective on something. You should just go by your personal beliefs without the influence of someone or something else.

  • Quentin

    I think art can change someones perspective on something. On mine it really doesn’t I just go with what I think of it. But it could change someone else’s

  • Clay

    If you see an artwork that addresses an important issue, does it compel
    you to form a stronger opinion? Does crochet artist Olek’s newest public
    art project in Russia, made in support of the LGBT community, inspire
    you to think more deeply about global issues around equality? Has any
    artwork resonated with you in a way that made you consider your own
    political perspectives? If so, please share a link or something

    No it does not. I see the art as art, not as a subliminal political message, and I don’t let it influence or compel me to think deeply about an issue. No it does not inspire me to think more deeply.

  • Kyle Williams

    It could change the perspective of some people who are a bit more influenced by art. But if it came down to me, I doubt that art can influence my decision on a political issue. Like a political cartoon is very opinionated, and it can change the art just because who drew it.

    • Manuel Moreno

      I agree! it could change the way people see art.

  • john

    This art is just art, simple as that. I don’t go into greater thoughts over this. It is a piece of artwork and that is all it is.

  • Arthur K Clemons

    I could see it influencing people who are more artistic than others. A lot of people would just see an object on a wall and that’s it. But artistic people can see a message, and can relate to the piece. I believe it could definitely change some peoples opinions, about anything really.

  • Cesar Aguilar

    I don’t think it can change my perspective, but it sure can call my attention.

  • Brandon Milligan

    It shouldn’t change your beliefs, but it can influence you and make you think about other ideas.

    • Samantha Wojcik

      I totally agree, it wont change them but it can influence them.

  • Wesley Seidelmann

    I think that for certain people it will affect how they view things in the world but ultimately, I think that these kinds of actions really don’t do a whole lot. Sure they can rally people to their cause but I think that most people in the world really don’t care about radical movements anymore.

  • Cesar Aguilar
    • Faith Colling

      This is cool Cesar. I didn’t know about this movement.

  • Kyle Williams
  • Samantha Wojcik

    I think that art can affect only certain people and their views, but there are some people who are set in their ways and art will not change that view.

  • Manuel Moreno

    Art can change the way people see things in this world. Overall this shouldn’t change people’s beliefs just the way they see things.