Art and Activism

Community members rally, holding signs made at art builds. Photo credit: Devon Cupery
Community members rally, holding signs made at art builds. Photo credit: Devon Cupery

Whitney Terrill

Visual art, public art, and narrative storytelling have a long tradition in social change movements. In the last few years, Sierra Club North Star Chapter has learned from our leaders and partners about the power of protest art to advance our environmental and climate justice goals. We have also seen that the experience of making art together through community art builds, printmaking stations at rallies, and other events can be a powerful organizing and community-building tool.

Together with our partners at the MN Environmental Justice (MN EJ) Table, Hope Community, and Community Stories Collective, we developed a mural project for the campaign to shut down the HERC Trash Burner. Our goal was to design and build a portable mural with the purpose of engaging North Minneapolis residents – especially youth – and invite their participation in the campaign. Hope Community Center contributed in-kind support. The mural is now being installed at North High School. This has facilitated a broader partnership with the North High Art Club, building relationships with faculty and students as they express their hopes for the community and the future through art.

Another example is the series of art builds that we have supported in partnership with the MN EJ Table and Spill Paint Not Oil, an art collective and studio space. At these events, more than 100 people have designed and built art projects. Spill Paint’s events build community in a fun and creative environment; the artmaking process leaves participants with a really memorable experience and deepens their commitment to stay involved.

We plan to continue hosting art builds and invite all to join at upcoming events.

Whitney Terrill joined the North Star Chapter as an Environmental Justice Organizer in 2022. In her role with the Sierra Club, she works to strengthen and empower communities most impacted by environmental injustice.