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'Art is a powerful tool': an organization for creative activism

Words by Tess Becker

It's hard to quantify the importance of art because the concept itself is an amorphous blob of human expression and culture. Everything from the Sistine Chapel to back alley graffiti has something to add to society at large. 

This is something that ArtServe, a community organization in South Florida hopes to foster. 

“Art is a powerful tool,” they write on their site. “It can uplift lives. Upend unjust systems. Transform perspectives and amplify voices that far too often go unheard. When properly leveraged, art is a catalyst for change on personal, communal and economic levels.”

ArtServe acts as a community hub for art and learning - made apparent by the juxtaposition of a quiet library down the corridor from a concert hall. The organization aims to support artists to learn, grow and explore their crafts. 

“What we help [artists] do is build their confidence and build their business,” Jason Hughes, ArtServe’s executive director, tells Smiley News. “A lot of artists are great at their art, but don't know how to price their art, how to sell their art, how to market their art, how to use social media, how to present their art, and public relations is a big thing.”

The people running ArtServe call it an “art incubator,” or a place where aspiring artists can go to improve their craft with classes, studio spaces, and art exhibitions to show off their work. 

“We do four exhibitions a year. The artists that are part of those exhibitions stand by their art pieces, whatever the gallery, during the opening reception and talk to people to learn how to communicate and talk about their art,” Jason says. 

Even with all these resources, that’s still just scratching the surface of what ArtServe does. On top of all the work they do for art and artists in South Florida, they also support and preserve the queer community and history. While the organization isn’t explicitly an LGBTQ+ entity the building is home to the World AIDS Museum and the Stonewall Museum, both of which share queer history.

They also host panels, such as that organized for National Coming Out Day. These events serve as community forums to raise awareness about and tackle issues affecting the queer community.  

This work is incredibly important in Florida - a state that is actively trying to suppress LGBTQ+ education with bills like the so-called “Don’t Say Gay,” book bannings, and restrictions on gender-affirming care. 

ArtServe also works with The Our Fund Foundation, which supports LGBTQ+ philanthropy throughout South Florida. 

“I think with the Our Fund Foundation it just really, really kind of drives, I hope to the community that you're safe here, we support you, we see you,” Jason says.

ArtServe, above all else just serves the community and helps people bring forth their best and most expressive selves. They’re one of the last art incubators in the US and they wear that on their proverbial sleeve. 

“People will say ‘I love ArtServe,’ and it's interesting because they can't say really why? It's just that they just feel comfortable,” Jason says. “And that's what we want.”

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

GLAAD. GLAAD is a massive LGBTQ+ advocacy group that helps fight for queer people across the US. Consider donating

Lambda Legal. This organization helps fight in the courtroom for queer people. Find out more.

The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs