Art is a frequent medium for human expression and resistance, and within that space of creation and possibility is the opportunity to find ways to fight poverty and alleviate the suffering of the global poor.
1. Art can help impoverished children increase their chances of going on to college and obtaining employment by developing fundamental cognitive capacities, critical analytical skills, and providing learning experiences that have a significant impact on children’s educational achievement and social development.
A recent report published last year by the presidentially appointed Committee on the Arts and Humanities showed results stating that low-income students who were highly involved in the arts performed better, stayed in school longer, scored higher in math assessments, and were more likely to graduate high school, attend college, find stable employment, perform volunteer work in their communities, and vote.
2. Art programs can focus on entire communities faced with poverty and provide multiple services and opportunities in terms of gainful employment, a platform of expression for the voiceless, creating beauty and hope amidst poverty and blight, provide awareness to suffering, galvanizing donors and philanthropists, and can allow others to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.
Programs like the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program target at-risk children, juveniles, and adults and provide them with opportunities and spaces of expression they would not otherwise have access to. The program has even taken a leading role in criminal and restorative justice by offering education programs in prisons and rehabilitation centers, helping to effectively reduce crime, violence, and the poverty and misery associated with it.
3. Art and creative expression can help provide employment and income to those who are impoverished. Having non-profit programs that help develop artists by providing a more equitable share of profits from sold work, and investing in opportunities for those who are poor to create and thrive as artists, means a larger return than one individual’s income and the chance to influence poverty in an entire community or area.
4. Art can advocate for the impoverished, provide visibility to issues of poverty, and be a platform for agency to effect change and eradicate this form of human suffering. Organizations like 2015 use art and creativity to change perceptions about poverty by raising awareness so that greater actions can be taken to fight poverty in the Middle East. By linking an art movement to the United Nations Millennium Goals, the public sphere and shared space of art becomes a political platform to support larger movements, fight poverty locally, and challenge the failings that allow for three billion people to remain trapped in poverty.
5. Art can help fund projects and utilize creativity to find measures to help end the suffering of the billions of the world’s poor. Artistic endeavors and the art community can be organized and motivated to provide fundraising and resources for essential programs and serve as the appropriate community to build connections of supporters. Art naturally involves innovation, and creative minds can be utilized to find solutions to problems like substandard housing or the effective use of public space. Those suffering in poverty need all the resources we have available, and art has the capacity to take its own form and be that of another, so when used to fight poverty, it becomes an instrument of justice.
– Nina Verfaillie