Inspiring change through Art and Activism with Engage 2020

Get inspired with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Engage 2020's series, Art and Activism.

Since the beginning of time, artists have been one of history’s greatest proponents of change by using their platform for civic engagement, discourse, and to expose injustices within the country. Whether capturing the past or reimagining the future, artists are often tasked with the responsibility to captivate the present for the preservation of history and culture. Art has been clever in its method of storytelling and the role of an artist has been debated by politicians, churches, and everyday civilians and it’s one conversation that while you agree or disagree, work is still being made.

In the 1930’s President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration hired artists as part of the New Deal programs. One of the most popular displays of artistic activism around that time was the Harlem Renaissance. Portraits of Black Americans’ identities and cultures emerged from Harlem and were seen around the world. This challenged racist ideals and criticized stereotypes Black Americans faced during the era of the Jim Crow, segregated south. While it was important to reject those biases for the safety of Black people, it renewed a sense of pride, determination, consciousness, and commitment to activism. 

Artists such as Zora Neale Hurston, Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Effie Lee Newsome, Josephine Baker, and Paul Robeson are just a few of the many artists who decided to advocate for their community by simply reflecting themselves in their work. 

This is just a small lens into Art Revolutions in America. There have been multiple art movements throughout the country depicting the hope, despair, and fortitude of demarginalized groups facing a stream of social and civic issues such as rightful citizenship, police brutality, displaced families, and under-reported murders of LGBTQIA+ women and men.

As part of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Engage2020 Art and Activism series, we offer a glimpse into present-day artists who have shared their talents and even lives to create social and civic change. 

Paintings, architecture, installations, dramatizations, filming, music – these are only a few demonstrations of how art has been used to encourage thought, then action. The goal of this program is to motivate our viewers to simply – start. Start in your home. Start at your school. Start in your garage. Your voice, pen, or paintbrush are the only tools you need. 

Please join us on the following dates. 

Stay tuned for future dates and artists.


In this election year, the Library is partnering with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) offering programs like this one to encourage everyone to look back at what has been accomplished in the past and to move forward with empowerment to make a difference in one's own community. To learn more about Engage 2020, click here.