Designing Justice: Fighting Economic Inequality Through Art

By Luba Lukova

I’ve always believed that art plays an important role in society, not only for bringing beauty and magic to our lives but for asking critical questions. That’s why I wanted to become an artist from a very young age.

But sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged about the purpose of art when we see that injustice, poverty, and wars continue despite the creation of so many powerful images, books, movies.

Does art really change anything? I do believe it does. Art changes the world the way drops of water transform the surface of a rock – slowly but surely. It is impossible for it to fix in an instant a declining economy or erase social inequality, but art changes the way people see and understand reality.

Art spurs thinking, engagement, and action. And if we often lose faith in its impact, those in power are quite aware of it.

If pictures, words, and songs were so innocent and benign, there wouldn’t be censorship in this world.

If art were so unimportant, would dictatorial regimes depend so much on it?

Here We Are © Luba Lukova

An image is able to grab the viewer’s attention and in seconds translate a complex idea into an accessible message. That’s what poster art does best as a medium. It transcends language, cultures and politics in a most succinct way.

In today’s digital era, so much information comes to us through a computer screen or mobile device. We are drowned in email blasts and web pages and it seems that posters have lost their importance as a communicative tool. But these simple printed images live on inner city walls, in theaters and clubs, and political rallies — places where real people meet other real people.

And we need that human connection even more now that we’re in such a virtual world. Posters are visual reactions to the most pressing issues of our time. By depicting images of injustice and justice, and putting them into the minds of the viewers, they act as a lever, helping bend that long arc of history toward justice.

Upward Mobility © Luba Lukova

Visual art is magnetic to young people and inspires them to be creative on their own.

But more than half of Detroit’s youngest citizens live in poverty. For families that are struggling to keep food on the table, encouraging children in art is a lower priority.

Why is it important to have art even in poverty? Why is it important to make it? Because there is more to this life than struggle; there is also great love and hope that come from creativity.

Creative thinkers and makers bring joy and a sense of pride to the community. They also set examples for young people who might be considering careers in the arts. But most importantly, they give thoughtful critique to our political and economic system — pushing communities to take steps toward social progress.

Seedling © Luba Lukova

Luba Lukova is a visual artist and designer. Her work is exhibited internationally and is included in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Library of Congress. She is also a member of the National Advisory Panel at The PuLSE Institute.

One comment

  1. This year marks the 5oth anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Would you like to collaborate on events that will educate and raise up the hope of what the Declaration was intended to do? Elena Herrada

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