Making tools for empowerment and activism - we speak to Svetla Baeva on her work with the organisation, Fine Acts.
Merging art and play makes a strong tool to make people care, act, and empower activism.
In a nutshell, this is what Fine Acts does. As a non-profit organisation for socially engaged creative solutions, it operates across issues and borders.
Fine Acts believes in the power of art and play. During their work, they think about ways to make people care and act, and for this they create novel avenues to empower activism.
Svetla Baeva, Campaigns Director at Fine Acts, for Youth Time elaborates that at the core of what they do is the belief that the combining of art and activism is a powerful way not only to communicate pressing human rights issues, but to connect with and engage young people.
A Playful and Hopeful Activism
In the beginning, Baeva highlights that to make the case for human rights, they need to promise a brighter future, and they also need to show what that would look like.
“Creative activism is art that doesn’t quite look like art and activism that doesn’t quite look like activism.
“So, it’s a great entry point to getting involved, because it offers novel perspectives and it allows space for dialogue and asking questions.”
“Our creative activism is playful and hopeful and tries to show what we can achieve together as a community.
Hope is a potent narrative for human rights communications and it can galvanise people to action. But, for a human rights movement dedicated to exposing abuses, positive communication does not always come naturally. “
Accordingly, she adds that it has been observed that when we only show the abuses, people start to believe that we live in a world of crisis with no alternative.
“They accept that reality, give up, or turn to people who preach division, fear and a false sense of safety. So, we connect and reach young people through painting a hopeful way forward in all that we do.”
Recent examples of their projects include Reimagining Human Rights, their global challenge to the creative community to reimagine how Fine Acts sees human rights, or their 12/24 campaign, for which their collaborated with 12 Black typography and lettering artists on creating an open pack of 24 protest posters in support of the Black Lives Matters movement.
“In both campaigns, the resulting amazing posters and illustrations were then used by activists to further amplify their voices.”
Playtivism – Combining Play and Experimentation in Activism
Fine Acts works at the cusp of art, human rights, science and technology, trying to seamlessly engage these fields to look for new ways to talk about social matters.
“We are authors of the concept of Playtivism, that refers to the process of incorporating play and experimentation in activism.
“It argues that multidisciplinary, creative play is essential to human rights work – as play sparks better ideas, and could be an antidote to the high levels of burnout and depression amongst activists.
“We practice playtivism through collaborating across sectors on creative actions and campaigns, joining forces with artists and championing powerful works that challenge our status quo, as well as innovating in the human rights sector and opening up our knowledge and insights on what works.”
Fine Acts engages people through a number of our original creative formats.
“One is our SPRINTS format, in which visual artists – graphic designers, typographists, illustrators, photographers – are invited to a creative boot camp to work on a specific topic.
“Participants are briefed by experts and then have 48 hours to develop and produce hopeful and evergreen visual artworks that communicate a respective message.”
All works are then published on TheGreats.co, a new and unique platform for free, open-license illustrations for social change.
“Over the years, we’ve organised a number of local and international editions of SPRINTS, on a wide range of issues.
“It’s a great way to engage and bring artists on board to the human rights movement. What’s more, the format also supports young activists to campaign and mobilise more effectively.
Another of their formats is ACT Labs, unique events that explore the intersection of human rights, art and technology, and develop a range of solutions – from immersive, participatory art pieces to apps with a strong art component.
“In Labs, teams of artists and technologists work together over a weekend to prototype ideas that raise awareness or provide solutions for a specific issue.
“We’ve organised a series of events, which have resulted in intriguing campaigns such as BEAT. (on domestic violence), Fakery (on fake news and disinformation) and Decktators (on the crackdown on civil society).”
In 2019, they opened up ACT Labs so that anyone, anywhere can organise their own edition with guidelines and tools provided by Fine Acts.
“We strive to open up all that we do so that we put the instruments of change in the hands of activists.”
Spreading the Message of Solidarity
Culture of Solidarity is Fine Acts’ latest creative challenge, supported by the European Cultural Foundation.
As Baeva explains, it aims to foster a creative space to produce emotional, compelling visuals that bring to life a common vision for a better future.
“For it, we commissioned 27 artists (one representing each European Member state) to create new works that reinforce solidarity and address the aftermath of the pandemic, increasing nationalist sentiments and the crackdown in civil liberties in European societies.”
Furthermore, also there was an open call to creatives anywhere to submit relevant works from their archive. It received close to a 1,000 submissions, and finally featured 77 artists.
“All of these works are currently open and live on TheGreats.co. They can be used and adapted non-commercially by non-profits, activists and citizens everywhere to spread the message of solidarity and unity in their communities.”
Fine Acts and Youth
In Baeva’s words, Fine Acts is always eager to involve young people in their work. Some opportunities include:
- If you’re a young artist: Be one of the Greats! Join the creative community on TheGreats.co by contributing an existing socially-engaged work. Or, sign-up for our newsletter and watch out for new opportunities for creative challenges and collaborations.
- If you’re a young activist: Be playful and experimental in your activism and campaigns. Use our hopeful illustrations and posters, published at TheGreats.co, in your campaigns and communications to raise awareness in your community or advocate for change in your country.
In this line, speaking about the youth and shortcomings faced by them today, she believes, that nowadays young people carry the burden of a mounting number of societal problems from climate change to the global crackdown on civil liberties.
“They have been an incredible force and source of inspiration in the last years, with movements springing up across the world to take on racism, gun control, rising temperatures and so much more.
“Fuelling discussions and pointing the way forward, it has been young people that have asked the hard questions and kept up the pressure.”
She believes that the biggest challenges faced by youth today is how to sustain this enthusiasm and how to transform it into the change one hopes to see for our communities and planet.
About Svetla Baeva
Baeva is a human rights campaigner and activist with an academic background in communications and political science from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
She has devoted the last 10 years to championing issues concerning women’s, LGBTI, refugee, minority and children’s rights at a number of non-profits and international organisations.
She is a 2018 Fulbright Scholar, and as part of the program, she joined Change.org. Svetla is also the co-author of Vagina Matters, an illustrated book on sex education for girls.
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