Have you been keeping up with Adobe MAX?

The global creativity conference is well underway, with sessions, lessons, and insights to fuel your creativity.

Today, we hosted artivist, illustrator, and Skillshare teacher Nikkolas Smith in conversation with writer, producer, and changemaker Lena Waithe. In the session, the two discussed how to use your creative voice to rise to the forefront of revolutionary conversations about community, society, and justice. 

In case you missed it, here are a few of our key takeaways:

What is artivism?

Artivism is a portmanteau of ‘art’ and ‘activism’ and that’s exactly where you’ll find it working. Artivism is simply the power of using your art as a voice for change. But there really isn’t anything simple about it.

For Nikkolas Smith, his approach to artivism came by way of finding the so-called “broken bones” in society and using those as a source of inspiration to create every single week in his Sunday Sketch Series.

For Lena Waithe, those same broken bones impact the stories she writes and chooses to produce, appear in, and otherwise champion in her life and work.

The power of imagination and storytelling through artivism

Artivism has so much power because it unlocks the ability to imagine better possibilities. Lena and Nikkolas discussed the power of imagination through art. Without envisioning how to mend these broken bones, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to realize a path to healing.

No matter the issue that’s on your heart, your art harnesses the power to dream up a more equitable future. Sharing that art gives others hope for what that future could look like.

Don’t be afraid to evolve as an artist. And to live in front of people as an artist.

Lena waithe

Creative influence comes with inclusive responsibility

Throughout their careers, both Lena and Nikkolas felt charged to create with an eye on representation. Inclusive creativity is so important and something every artist can bring to their work. Being a creative with a platform means having the opportunity to highlight those who are often relegated to the other.

Creating inclusive art could mean spotlighting your particular intersections of identity, like Nikkolas discussed with his work on the 1619 Project and Lena with The Chi. Or it could be using your voice of privilege to shine light on underrepresented groups.

You can evolve and the issues you care about can, too

Just as the issues of our time change shape with the world, the art we choose to make and the issues we center it on can, too. While your artistic output can change over time, so can your focus and expression. As Lena notes: “Don’t be afraid to evolve as an artist. And to live in front of people as an artist.”

Whether you’re honoring your history or shedding light on an issue happening today, it’s important to remember that your art doesn’t need to make people feel a certain way. You can create each and every piece to evoke a different reaction or emotional response.

Artivism as therapy

Creative responsibility doesn’t come without its own release and care. Nikkolas and Lena discussed how the act of creating and being an artivist can be therapy in its own right. There’s so much in the world that falls out of any one person’s control. Creating art that gives a voice to an issue you’re passionate about can help you make a difference. Watching the conversation around your artivism spread is therapy unto itself.

Watch the full session of Nikkolas Smith in conversation with Lena Waithe here.

About Nikkolas Smith

Nikkolas Smith, a native of Houston, Texas, is a Master of Architecture recipient from Hampton University. After designing theme parks at Walt Disney Imagineering for 11 years, he is now a Concept artist, Children’s Books Author and Film Illustrator. He creates activist art paintings and Hollywood movie posters like Black Panther, Dear White People, and Stranger Fruit. He is a proud 2016 White House Innovators of Color fellow. As an illustrator of color and Artivist, Nikkolas is focused on creating captivating art that can spark important conversations in today’s world and inspire meaningful change. Many of his viral and globally published sketches are included in his book Sunday Sketch: The Art of Nikkolas, a visual journey on life and a collection of more than 100 sketches he has created.

About Lena Waithe

Award-winning writer, creator, producer, actor, and CEO, Lena Waithe continues to lead the cultural revolution in Hollywood. Waithe expertly taps into emerging societal trends by speaking to myriad experiences from her unique perspective while challenging audiences to think outside of conventional norms. Through her production company, Hillman Grad Productions, Waithe and her team fight against the status quo by giving marginalized storytellers the opportunity to access the industry and tell their stories. Acclaimed credits include projects like Netflix’s MASTER OF NONE, SHOWTIMES’s THE CHI, BET’s TWENTIES, Universal’s QUEEN & SLIM, Sundance award-winner THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION, and more.

Explore Nikkolas Smith’s Artivism Class

Learn how he makes art for change, and use his class as a springboard for your own creative ritual.

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