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Join us & Free the Vaccine for COVID-19

We’re forming a global, advocacy innovation lab to Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 and you can take part.

Watch our info session

We offered two, live online information sessions on Friday, MARCH 27. You can view one here:

Then apply

Once you’ve watched the video, you can apply by completing this questionnaire before April 1.

Around the globe we are taking rapid, drastic action to slow the spread of COVID-19. As we come to terms with the daunting path forward, it’s hard to imagine the day we read the headline “COVID-19 Immunizations Begin.” But our experience with our amazing global scientific community teaches us that it’s only a matter of time until we have a vaccine for COVID-19. This day will arrive. And in that there is hope.

Watch the information session and apply by April 1

But when we do have a vaccine, will everyone have access to it? Herd immunity only works if the vast majority of the herd is immune. Without affordable access for everyone, across the globe, the vaccine can’t really do it’s job. Already governments around the world are investing billions in tax-payer funds into the research and development of diagnostic tools, treatments, and a vaccine for Covid-19. Since SARS outbreak, the National Institutes of Health alone has spent nearly $700 million on coronavirus research and development. This virus is now a global pandemic, yet experience tells us once the vaccine is discovered, pharmaceutical corporations will want us to pay again to acquire it. How do we make sure pharmaceutical companies profits don’t interfere with doctors, public health officials, and our access to tests, treatments, and the vaccine? How do we make this life saving medicine accessible to our family and friends around the globe and reduce infection?

The good news is that we know what needs to be done, and we – you! – have done it before. We have to fight for free access for all with creative, collaborative and convincing campaigns.

Together we will Free the Vaccine for COVID-19

Join us as we do the work, together, to make sure this vaccine does all the good it can do. We won’t win through old methods – holding up signs at a traditional crowded protest march is not an option. So together we’ll find new, better ways that work in our current context. We’ll achieve this by creating an advocacy innovation lab with teams around the world crowdsourcing new methods to achieve our objectives. These “Salk Teams” will design and test creative methods to pressure governments and pharmaceutical corporations to ensure publicly-funded diagnostic tools, treatment, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be sustainably priced, available to all and free at the point of delivery.

What we’re asking for and what will happen:

Once part of a Salk Team, you’ll connect with dozens of interested, talented and committed people from around the world! You’ll get advanced training through weekly online courses with:

  • the Center for Artistic Activism, which has worked around the world helping advocates and activists be more effective by using play, creativity, art, and humor.
  • Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a global student-driven organization focused on ensuring that publicly-funded medicines are affordable to the public
  • Special guest collaborators – veterans in access to medicines, the arts, design, and campaigns for public health and human rights.

Together with other SALK Team members, you will create experimental actions to move the needle on affordable vaccines.

What that means:

  • A weekly total time commitment of roughly 2-4 hours over for 3-4 months.
  • Weekly inspiration to help you to prepare: video, reading or an individual action you can take from your home etc.
  • Collaboration with other participants in your area (from your home)

Why Salk Teams?

Jonas Salk (above) helped discover the polio vaccine and considered public health a “moral commitment.” His vaccine was released without a patent.

What you get:

  • A sense of agency in an uncertain time. A sense of community and belonging as well as connection to new friends collaborating with purpose. Your contributions will matter and be part of the solution to help save lives.
  • The opportunity to take action on a crisis impacting us all now.
  • Ability to take action from home.
  • Respect for your time, schedule, and changing demands in the months to come.
  • An understanding that if you need a break for illness, to support a relative, or need some for mental healthcare, then that’s OK. You’re part of a big team and together we got this.

What We Hope to Learn

We hope to learn how to make the COVID-19 vaccine accessible for all. No one knows how to do that, yet, because we can’t do that without going through an innovation process. Within a few months we’ll have created and evaluated the effectiveness of dozens, maybe hundreds, of ideas. Those successes will move forward, developing and evolving into practical methods. We’ll then implement those methods to take huge steps forward in advocacy for access to medicines. Through sharing our work, it will have already reached other regions and inspired new action. There’s no way to innovate on advocacy without a massive amount of experimentation. We hope to learn from those experiments while developing and building a grassroots movement ready to implement them.

Can you support our COVID-19 work?

Help make this happen.
We understand not everyone is able to participate in the same ways. Your donations will help get this program up an running; building infrastructure, materials for producing actions around the world, and creating, translating, and distributing teaching materials.



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Don’t Cancel: Creative Activism and Coronavirus

During COVID-19, we can creatively adapt activism and advocacy campaigns to keep social connection while maintaining physical distance. Here’s how…

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve are deeply important to protect ourselves, or friends, and our family from an overwhelmed medical system. However, that doesn’t mean our efforts to fight for social and economic justice are no longer relevant or important. In fact many of our efforts are related or interconnected with this current health crisis. Specific events may need to be cancelled or postponed, but your advocacy and your campaigns may need to continue. It’s simply time to adapt. So don’t cancel, instead let’s focus on how it can be done. Now’s the time for us to make the seemingly impossible possible.

Resist your feelings of discouragement. Don’t call off your plans just yet. As artistic activists, the world has always tossed the unexpected into our well made plans. This is why we rely on our creativity to begin with, and the current array of recommendations, requirements, and limitations to our social interactions are also a test of our creative thinking.

The following is a list of ideas, possibilities and starting points to inspire you in how you can continue doing your important work in ways that are safe given our current situation. They are not all appropriate for the present moment, nor will they work for every effort in every context, but using these as a starting point for some creative thinking may help you move forward.

Leverage the moment to get press

Everyday the newspaper starts empty and needs to be filled with news. Yes, there’s a lot of public health related news, but right now there are fewer, if any, sports events, cultural events, and other gatherings and functions in which to report on.

The press needs content. By creating newsworthy events, in this time, we have opportunities to get our messages out into the world.

Also, reporters are always looking for clever angles that connect to current events, and we can provide them. For example, read the following in a newscaster voice: “How do you organize a protest when no one can come? One local activist is determined to find a way.”

Keep Away

Revealed today by Center for Artistic Activism alumni in Skopje, Macedonia, “Keep Away” reminds citizens to follow the recommendations of the health department. But in announcing the project, they made special note that “no direct contact between the members of the group [was made] during the preparation of this action – we worked in phases and sequentially. Each artist worked on a different stage in order to avoid direct contact, but also to prove that although it is difficult, it is not impossible to get things done this way.”

Save the Rivers (at the river)

Center for Artistic Activism alumnus, Vanja Lazić, had planned to launch this collaborative, community mosaic/mural about saving rivers in the Balkans with a large public event this week. Because of COVID-19, she had to shift her strategy away from a public gathering to a press event. Instead of displaying the mural in the town center, she brought it to a beautiful river and created a spectacular photo opportunity for the press.

An overhead shot of a collectively created mural is displayed on a bridge over a beautiful rushing river.

Phone It In

Are there ways you can make your actions and projects more digital and less live and in public in the next month?

Can you use the phone system or conference calls to gather people or discuss issues in other formats? 

Can you use social media to encourage interaction and audience participation?

Here’s some examples:

A very successful site that connects people with issues they care about and then connects them directly with their representatives.

Mobile Games

There’s a whole genre here, but check out Phone Story, a mobile game which reveals the real social and ecological conditions of creating Mobile Devices. Or Guerras Electorales, which was launched right before the presidential elections in Mexico and shows how to commit fraud at the election.

An online pressure campaign around drug user health in Seattle the Center for Artistic Activism created in 2018. Visitors to the site can participate by writing memorials for friends who have died and/or contacting Seattle’s Mayor to demand changes.


Virtual sit-in tool initially developed in support of the Mexican insurgent group the Zapatistas.

Courage Score

Courage Score grade California state legislators on their political courage, revealing how well they stand up for their constituents over corporations or interest groups that exploit Californians, particularly the poor, disadvantaged, or communities of color.

Help lower the barriers to participation

Figuring out how to lower the barriers and make participation easy and accessible will help people take part whether they are on lock-down, sick in bed, or their schedule is impacted by caring for friends, neighbors or loved ones.

Start by acknowledging the current costs (financial, social, perceived costs, fears and risks, etc) and where people are. “Look, we’re all stuck at home and our lives have been disrupted, but let’s remember that we are in this together and we can help each other. Here’s an easy way…”

Make participating simpler – ask people to share their experiences with the issue or topic you’re working on. Remind them that we will overcome the current obstacles, and ask them to contribute the traditions they love from the past or visions of what they’d like to see in the world once we’re past this.

Here’s a great example:

Partido de la Red, Argentina’s Internet Party

To bring people into the political conversation, the Internet Party uses a tool called Democracy OS (see also Loomio), an online open-source platform that allows members of the public to debate policies and decide how they want their representatives to vote.

Give people some agency and community

People are stuck at home. They are desperate to hear good news and positive things. They also need a sense of agency – when the world feels out of control, it feels good to contribute to something and see the effect of that contribution.

You can build community also. If you’re doing online meetings or phone meetings, give some time for people to connect socially at the beginning and end. Put them into smaller “breakout rooms” or do a round of introductions that include some human, social element “unrelated” to the topic so everyone gets a chance to connect on a more human level.

Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

This edit-a-thon’s goal is to increase the presence of women artists on Wikipedia. Originally done together in physical spaces, but there’s no reason it can’t be done together online. And when you make an edit, it’s immediately part of wikipedia – the largest ever encyclopedia in the world.

Family Pictures USA

On this public television show, artist Thomas Allen Harris goes through the family photos and stories of participants “as they are reacquainted with relatives and old friends, introducing fascinating characters to our collective consciousness and discovering surprising connections along the journey.” It’s really wonderful.

Run events that don’t require close contact

Can you run an event that doesn’t require crowds and touching of common surfaces? Maybe “Appointment only” events and call it “VIP” treatment. :slightly_smiling_face:

Can you create an audio tour or low power radio broadcasts so people can have a guided, solo experience?

Center for Artistic Activism pal, Tod Brilliant brought up that more people are out taking walks “so, good old-fashioned telephone pole flyers are suddenly powerful again. At walking speed, they’re seen. As part of a ‘real world’ that too many people have missed, they’re likely to be received with a dose of nostalgia and gratitude, especially if they’re more about community building than protest… and, of course, link to an (yawn) online platform.”

508 Memorial in Seattle

Another Center for Artistic Activism from last year in Seattle. These numbers represented overdose deaths in the city. The memorial had an interactive element, but didn’t require large crowds to be effective. The flowers, notes, and photos they left became a way to mark their presence, even after they were gone.

8 foot tall numbers that read "508". In the face of the numbers are flowers.

Spanish Hologram Protest

Spanish citizens hold the first hologram protest in history in order to protest without violating the new draconian guidelines of the National Security Act


“Pamparadio” was a radio show run by two adolescents from the community of Iquitos, a jungle province. Armed with a gigantic speaker on the top of a community center and an AM radio frequency, Marco Jhastin Anchec and Cledy del Aguila Mozombite single-handedly ran “Pamparadio” as a celebration of potable water, how to make it, and how to take care of it.

Stage it for Video

Most of your audience for your live actions actually end up being those who see it on video or through photos afterwards anyway, right? Make your documentation amazing. Some projects you can stage without people or with very few people.

There are ways to use live video and interactivity to make it even better.

Domestic Tension

In Domestic Tension, Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal lived alone in a prison cell-sized room in the line of fire of a remote-controlled paintball gun and a camera that connected him to internet viewers around the world where they could shoot at him, or not, 24 hours a day.

wafaa bilal domestic tension

Journal Rappé

Xuman and Keyti (Center for Artistic Activism Trainers) created a local, in-depth news program, but with a twist. The whole show is a hip-hop mix tape. One of our favorite projects!

Does this inspire any ideas? Is there a project we should be sharing? We’d sincerely like to know. Get in touch or leave a comment below.

NOMINATE: the 2020 Artistic Activism Awards!

It’s award season everybody! Movies have the Oscars. Music has the Grammies. Theater has the Tonys. But there’s something missing. Where are the awards for the most important art form, artistic activism?

So we at the Center for Artistic Activism – created the first ever…

Artistic Activism Awards!!!

We don’t have big (ahem, any) prize money, or fancy statues… yet. But that won’t stop us from having some fun and recognizing the great work people are doing.

Winners will receive honor, fame, glory, and eternal admiration and maybe a surprise!

The Awards will be in the form of very special honorifics and much fanfare on our part. Winners will receive honor, fame, glory, and eternal admiration and maybe a surprise!

This Years Award Categories include (but are not limited to)

  • Best Low Budget Action
  • Most Likely to Piss Off the Authorities
  • So Weird! In a Good Way
  • Best Gut Punch Action
  • Best Comedy
  • Most Direct and Practical
  • Best Press Coverage or Documentation
  • Best Dramatic Action
  • Best Supporting Unintended Role of Police
  • Best Aesthetics/Design
  • Best Dressed (aka costume design)
  • Kids Choice! But also Packs a Whallop
  • ??? (You can help us create a category!)

Submit Your Nominations by sending us a message with some info:

Name of the Action (if applicable):


Why you think it’s great and maybe, what award it should get: (Feel free to make up your own i.e. “Best of Cheap DIY”, “Most Likely to Piss Off the Authorities”, “So Weird! In a Good Way”, “Kids Love it but it also Packs a Punch”, “Best Supporting Unintended Role of Police”):

Yes, you can submit your own projects. Large or small, anything is applicable. If you’re not sure if it’s artistic activism, submit it anyway!

Alumnus Gjorgje Jovanovik helps open Jadro Foundation

Center for Artistic Activism alumnus, Gjorgje Jovanovik, has helped open a new space in Skopje Macedonia.

Their announcement


In 2015, the JADRO Association of the independent culture scene started an initiative for establishing a hybrid institution that is to be the first example of a working civic-public partnership.

With this initiative our aim was to not only redefine the economic, political, cultural and other needs of the independent culture sector but to also take on the structures that are inherently tied to the change of political discourse needed to give the independent culture sector more democratic capital.  

The idea for the SCS Centar-Jadro was born from the need to have a focal point, to have a space where urban life and contemporary socio-cultural practices could be freely expressed, a space that would facilitate autonomous, self-organizing programs, programs that reflect our urban, intellectual, critical, and creative capital. In other words, an institution that would have the capacity for stable and autonomous development.  

A physical space in the actual material structure of the city represents an important neuralgic focal point of every attempt in art and culture. It has a crucial role on a symbolic level, that is, in the production and communication of the meaning that circulates in the dynamic flux of social and political trends.  

This new type of institution that we conceptualized is important not only for the development of culture and critical thinking in the country, but also for the education and establishment of new forms of socio-cultural communities. This type of institution would approach space in a whole new way and redefine the way we use it and the way we curate it – with diversity and inclusivity rather than with homogeneity, uniformity and exclusivity. Above all, it would promote a new management model that embraces collaboration, unity, and public responsibility, and that capitalizes on the strengths of the democratic model of governance. 

This type of institution relies on the partnership between the local government and the civil network made up of NGOs, individuals, and informal groups. Its aim is to decentralize power and to weaken the existing practices tainted by party influence. That is the only approach that can pave the way to organizational and program autonomy in the field of culture, within the civil society sector and beyond. 

SCS Centar-Jadro was founded in October, 2016 and opened for business in 2019, on the premises of the Dane Krapcev community buildings in the Centar municipality in Skopje.

SCS Centar-Jadro is an open space that can be used for free by individuals, culture NGOs, informal groups, and associations that are part of the wider civil sector for any purpose related to the realization of their programs. Apart from being a physical space created to serve the needs of the independent cultural scene, SCS Centar-Jadro is, first and foremost, a space that strives to produce new social narratives.

SCS Centar-Jadro is an open space that allows cultural associations, art organizations, informal groups or individuals to use the centre’s resources to implement programs in the field of contemporary art and culture. The wider civil society can also use the resources of SCS Centar-Jadro to implement their community-oriented programs.

The users of the SCS Centar-Jadro can take advantage of the resources the centre offers if they operate in the following fields:

  • Contemporary art and culture
  • Educational and informational programs that aim to raise the quality of life for the citizens and the community
  • Educational programs designed to build the capacity of NGOs working in the culture sector

SCS Centar-Jadro can host events that belong to any field that falls under the umbrella of contemporary art and culture: exhibitions, theatre and dance performances, concerts, lectures, public forums, workshops, and seminars. Additionally, the space is intended to be used for cultural production, rehearsals, art residences, meetings, etc, on a daily basis. 

SCS Centar-Jadro welcomes both renowned names in the local and international cultural scene as well as young artists who are yet to establish themselves in their respective fields.

Creative Anti-Corruption: Facing down the education system in Albania

If you want a PhD in Albania, it’s within reach. Just find the right administrator and be prepared to pay. Be careful who you approach because some may prefer sexual favors to cash.

This problem makes everyone’s education less valuable, but it also endangers the population; can you be sure that doctor, civil engineer, legal counsel, or other expert in the government has the proper training?

Migen Qiraxhi is an alumnus of a 2019 Center for Artistic Activism training and a member of our Regional Creative Hubs program. He’s taken on this issue with a series of outstanding artistic actions in Tirana, Albania’s capital.

The University of Corrupted Sciences

The hilarious announcement of the University of Corrupted Sciences

On the International Day of Education, Migen organized a creative action with students to ironically call attention to the the phenomenon of corruption in education.

“We founded the ‘University of Corrupted Sciences’ as a symbol of all the issues that have characterized the education system in our transition years.”

The self-proclaimed “Dean” and “Rector” spoke at the event and awarded for free 200 academic titles to the participants and pedestrians, but they also humorously higlighted at the behavior of university leaders over the years.

The University of Corrupted Sciences

Shame in Education

Migen and his team didn’t stop there. They followed up on the success of the University of Corrupted Sciences action by taking their next action right to the door of the Ministry of Education.

On Feb 25th 2020 they opened the exhibition; 20 magazine covers in the style of “Time” but reading “TURP” or “SHAME”, and featuring 25 scandals involving the education ministry from the past 2 years.

“It was amazing how citizens started to pay attention. They complimented us on the work and the organization” Migen told us. At the end of exhibition, the public was invited to give a grade for the Ministry of Education. In Albania, the grading scale is 4-10, with 4 being a failing grade. Passers by gave the education department 4s and lower.

This action took individual news events and scandals that happened over months and years, and turned them into one, powerful news story about the Education system. Instead of treating each event as an individual, isolated incident at this school with that administrator, the action presented a systemic problem and finally made the systemic problem the news story.

Migen noted one other important observation. With all these scandals over two years “the Ministry of Education, surprisingly, did not react. But today they reacted as soon as we ended our protest.”

Alumni Spotlight: Debbie Almontaser

Debbie Almontaser was part of Center for Artistic Activism workshop in 2015. We selected her because of her past accomplishments and we’re so proud of the work she’s done since! Check out this video about the 2017’s New York Bodega Strike and let your heart swell.

Debbie has a new book out also, Leading While Muslim.

Leading While Muslim is the first of its kind to study Muslim principals in the United States. There has been a sizable amount of research on how 9/11 has had an impact on public school communities, including students, teachers, and parents of Muslim identity, but nothing on American Muslim principals in public education. This book examines the lived experiences of American Muslim principals who serve in public schools in a post-9/11 world to determine whether global events, political discourse, and the media coverage of Islam and Muslims have affected their leadership and spirituality. Such a study is intended to help readers to gain an understanding of the adversities that American Muslim principals have experienced post-9/11 and how to address these adversities, particularly through decisions about educational policy and district leadership.

Congratulations Debbie! We can’t wait to see what you do next.

Alumnus, Terry Marshall, selected for Create Change Program

Center for Artistic Activism Alumnus and Board Member, Terry Marshall, has been selected for the Laundromat Project’s Create Change Program. Center for Artistic Activism pal, Aisha Shillingford, was also included.

Congratulations Terry and Aisha!

The cohort, comprised of 10 Fellows and 4 Artists-in-Residence, will collaborate with New York City communities to develop, deepen, and enact social change through creative projects. This year’s Create Change programming will investigate the theme of abundance through a series of theory-based workshops and practice-based creative community engagement processes.

Create Change Fellows will develop and practice strategies for making community-engaged art over a rigorous six month period. Through the theme of abundance, Fellows will work on proposals to amplify local cultural resources in NYC neighborhoods that center the voices and histories of long term residents, small business owners, youth, activists, cultural institutions, and artists in their assigned community.

The Laundromat Project

frank Gathering 2020

The Center for Artistic Activism’s Rebecca Bray and Steve Lambert will be speaking and doing a workshop at the frank Gathering, February 4-7 in Gainsville Florida.

Other invitees this year include Center for Artistic Activism alumnus Debbie Almontaser, and comedian and creator of the Daily Show, Lizz Winstead.

frank is more than just a gathering. It is an essential community for movement builders and change makers – the people who use communications to drive positive social, institutional and behavioral change. A part of the University of Florida Center for Public Interest Communications, frank gathering informs and drives the field of public interest communications through research, insights and news.

Now in its seventh year, frank is bringing changemakers together from across the earth. Our community is made up of strategists, researchers, artists, journalists, students, activists and more. From corporate advocacy to the research lab, to the grassroots on the street activist, the frank community believes in using evidence-based strategies to drive social change. If you see yourself in our mission, then we welcome you into our community.

frank website

And if you want to watch some talks from years past here’s a selection:

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. on Audiences

Roy Wood Jr. does his own form of audience testing. In this interview for the Good One Podcast, Wood talks about how he developed a hilarious bit called “Black Patriotism?” for his special, Father Figure.

In the interview Wood talks about testing his jokes on different kinds of audiences in different parts of the country to make sure they will reach the most people. This could sound like pandering, or working to the lowest common denominator, but not in this case. Roy Wood Jr. is refining his message and making it accessible without dialing back any of the underlying message.

Listen and see if you agree.

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. on Audiences

Roy Wood Jr. does his own form of audience testing. In this interview for the Good One Podcast, Wood talks about how he developed a hilarious bit called “Black Patriotism?” for his special, Father Figure.

In the interview Wood talks about testing his jokes on different kinds of audiences in different parts of the country to make sure they will reach the most people. This could sound like pandering, or working to the lowest common denominator, but not in this case. Roy Wood Jr. is refining his message and making it accessible without dialing back any of the underlying message.

Listen and see if you agree.