Many artists today are deeply committed to creating work that addresses pressing social issues and changes the way we perceive the world. While some artists use traditional forms of art to make work that comments on, responds to, or advocates for the need for change, others are exploring new forms of “social practice” that engages communities in an interactive exchange. For example, an artwork might take the form of a store, a garden, a meal, a website, a street performance, a story exchange, or an urban planning project. Socially engaged art can ignite outrage and demands for change, and/or provide a platform for reflection, collaboration, and building community. Art expressions can focus on the residents of a single city block, or reach out to a global audience.

The Challenge

The challenge for this category is to develop an innovative art project that meaningfully engages with issues of advocacy, justice, and community-building. The initiative may use any art form — visual/ conceptual art, photography, new media, video, dance, theater/performance art, music, creative writing, or other forms. Art must be central to the project, and the proposal must reflect an informed understanding of the particular art form(s) being used, as well as of the communities being served.

Examples of proposals that would fit into this category include (but are not limited to):

  • An after school expressive arts program that aims to provide a safe space and creative outlet to elementary school students who live in under-resourced communities.
  • A documentary that raises awareness about public health consequences, detrimental social impact, and cost of imprisonment.
  • DA community garden that seeks to build community relationships in diverse neighborhoods.


The “Art & Social Change” category is open to all matriculated students across the 10-campus University of California system, as well all matriculated students from Makerere University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Multidisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged.   For additional information about general contest rules, timing and how to apply, please refer to the Contest Application Requirements.

Past Winners

Spotlight on Hope

Spotlight on Hope (UC Riverside)


FITE Film (UC Berkeley)

AfroArt East Africa: Artist Stories (UC Berkeley)

AfroArt East Africa: Artist Stories (UC Berkeley)

More Winners


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