Creative advocacy is a public and intentional form of engagement that employs artistic practice to disrupt prevailing narratives and strengthen community movement toward an identified goal.

The Creative Advocacy Playbook is an in-depth guide to building powerful campaigns and coalitions, including history and theory of concepts, as well as exercises you can use immediately.

In the Creative Advocacy Playbook, New Sun Rising and RiverWise explore the importance of growing cultural capital as a strategy for building community agency and power.  We seek to understand and demonstrate how proactive creative advocacy strategies can function as a tool for changing community mindset around an identified matter, shifting both how the community thinks about itself and the way it acts in light of those shifts in thinking. In so doing, we hope to encourage stakeholders to deploy analog and digital strategies that disrupt the false and unhelpful narratives that predictably accompany community decline while building the resources and capacity to grow in self-directed ways as a result. The Playbook serves as both an educational and practical resource, helping community catalysts and creatives effectively plan and implement their advocacy campaigns.

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The five primary goals of Creative Advocacy, from getting informed to mobilizing action and resources

Creative Advocacy in the Wild

Campaign:  Peoples’ Vertex

Catalyst: New Sun Rising

Creatives: CMU Futures Club, Edith Abeyta, Bizzy Barefoot, Rowan Wolovich, Land Art Generator Initiative

Date: December 10, 2022 and May 11, 2023

Envisioning the future is often reduced to a paradox between utopia and dystopia. Peoples’ Vertex is an experiential futures exhibit which engages participants through visual and audio cues, artifacts, and role playing. The Vibrant Communities Futures Edition solicited feedback on hopes, fears, and expectations which were analyzed and made available through the Community Voice dashboard. The Solarpunk Futures Edition transcribed guided conversation to inform an artist’s creation of AI art representing the expressed vision. Participants were then able to place themselves in that image using a greenscreen. By disrupting existing paradigms and challenging thought patterns, Peoples’ Vertex elicits wider thinking across a wider range of possibilities while inspiring people to take action.


Campaign: Beyond Rust

Catalyst: RiverWise

Creatives: The Genesis Collective

Date: April 21, 2023 –

Inspired by community reaction to the documentary film, Boom & Bust, which wrestles with industrial development in Beaver County, six artists produced original work to help achieve campaign goals of building greater awareness, providing onramps to participation, and creating spaces for intersectional strategies around the issues. Beyond Rust is an artists’ response to industrial development in Beaver County. An interactive exhibit was held with ongoing content distribution and community engagement strategies deployed.

Campaign: Vacant Lot Futures

Catalyst: Grounded Strategies

Creatives: Christopher Padgett (Human City Creative), Marlon Gist

Date: August 31, 2022 – October 6, 2022

Pittsburgh has over 26,000 vacant and distressed land parcels, over 30% of which are owned by the City itself. New Sun Rising supported their partners at Grounded Strategies and Homewood residents to explore the history of one of those lots (7213 Frankstown Avenue). By using publicly available institutional data and gathering contextual Community Voice data, Grounded’s Ground Truthing model helps communities advocate for a just end use of vacant property.

CampaignExploring Covid Community Impacts

Catalyst: New Sun Rising, RiverWise

Creatives: JY Originals (artwork top left), Marlon Gist (artwork middle left), Natiq Jalil (artwork bottom left), Erin Ninehouser, Juliandra Jones, Katie Stone

Date: October 30, 2020

The Summer of 2020. The Double Pandemics of COVID-19 and Racism. The Struggle for our Present and Future. Six visual artists were asked to create original works reflecting the impact of COVID-19 on their community. The public was invited to hear from the artists, witness their gifts, reflect on your own experiences, and consider their role in defining tomorrow. Artwork was shared virtually and has been reproduced in numerous ways to engage the public, including wrapping a large scale storefront in downtown Pittsburgh.

Campaign: Boom & Bust

Catalyst: RiverWise

Creatives: Christopher Padgett (Human City Creative), The Genesis Collective

Date: July 28, 2022 –

Seven residents of western PA travelled to the Gulf Coast region to explore what it looks like to live alongside a petrochemical plastics facility. The resulting documentary takes the viewer along with them as they ask the hard questions and wrestle with the complex issues facing Beaver County’s future. Intended to spur conversation, elevate awareness, and mobilize residents, this one-of-a-kind film aspires to provoke honest and wide-ranging conversations about the future health and vitality of the region. Community Voice data was collected after each in person and virtual screening, analyzed, and shared back for discussion at a public community gathering including a data story report.

Interested to learn more or get technical assistance to plan and implement your Creative Advocacy Campaign?