7 Arts Stories From 2017 That Show Us How Creativity And Diversity Go Hand In Hand

A Plus looks at memorable arts stories from 2017.

This year, artists and other creatives weren't afraid to stand up to fight for inclusion and equality using the power of mediums ranging from simple photographs to national TV advertisements.  


As we approach the end of 2017, A Plus looks back on some of the most impactful and memorable arts stories we wrote to highlight the work people are doing across the country and the world.

So sit back and have a snack. You have a lot of reading to do.

1. A marketing agency illustrated posters of inspirational women.

We started 2017 off with the Women's March on Washington — a worldwide protest on Janurary 21 and 22 for people to advocate for fair legislation and policies for women's rights, as well as other major issues such as LGBTQ+ and racial issues.

As the year went on and women's rights continued to be part of a worldwide conversation, Verve Search — a marketing agency based in London — saw an opportunity to help celebrate successful women. It started a project called Trailblazers, a collection of illustrated posters featuring notable women ranging from Frida Kahlo to Michelle Obama

While James Barnes, Verve Search's creative writer and researcher, told A Plus it was difficult to narrow the project down to only 10 women, he believes it's a great opportunity for young women to have a series of inspirational role models to look up to.

"Ultimately, in celebrating the accomplishments of these trailblazing women we hope to inspire and empower future generations to blaze their own trails," he said.

2. Airbnb celebrated diversity in its 2017 Super Bowl ad.

In an incredibly timely advertising approach, Airbnb set forth a memorable 30 seconds during this year's Super Bowl as it aired an ad promoting diversity and inclusion for its housing services.

The ad features up-close portraits of real company employees who are cut together to show equality between each person.

"We believe no matter who you are, where you're from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong," the ad said in between the images. "The world is more beautiful the more you accept."

The ad was part of Airbnb's initiative to provide housing for more than 100,000 displaced people within the next five years. The company also plans to contribute over $4 million to the International Rescue Committee over the next four years.

3. A comic book about a lifelong romance between two Black women became a hit on Kickstarter.

Tee Franklin basically made comic book history in 2017.

The writer created Bingo Love, a story that follows the romance between Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray — two Black lesbians — from 1963 to 2030. The two meet as teenagers and become close, but are forbidden to see each other because of their parents. The two reconnect later in life at a bingo hall and end up divorcing their husbands to get together.

Franklin was inspired to create Bingo Love after keeping her sexuality a secret for so long.

"It's rare in the comic industry to have two black women leads, especially written by a disabled, queer black woman," Franklin said to The Huffington Post. "Now to have these protagonists queer and older? This will never happen in the comics industry unless someone does it on their own."

The comic received full funding for Franklin and her creative team within five days of launching a Kickstarter. And according to Franklin's Kickstarter updates, Bingo Love has been ready to ship to eager readers since December 18.

4. A photo series allowed us to look into the lives of Muslims across America.

With Islamophobia on the rise in the United States, one photographer set out to change the minds of those Americans.

Brooklyn-based photographer Carlos Khalil Guzman started a photo series titled Muslims in America as a way to fight against common stereotypes and misconceptions against Muslims. Each subject chose their favorite verse from the Quran that helps them get through the hate they experience from those who are against Muslims.

"I felt the need to be proactive and use my craft to reclaim our Muslim narrative," Guzman said to A Plus in April.

5. One artist’s message about Black Lives Matter was loud and clear.

Carla Cubit is unafraid to incorporate social justice movements in her art.

The artist combined the two in her exhibition, the Black Lives Matter Show that kicked off with an opening reception on January 31 at The Living Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y. Cubit's show featured mixed-media pieces, including a banner where people were able to leave their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I'm always glad when I can find a place or venue to have these Black Lives Matter art shows because it gives me the opportunity to put the idea about Black Lives Matter into the art world," she said to A Plus. "Because the art world has its contemporary views … I just hope to accomplish [putting] the idea of a political statement into the art world. I would like to help to fill that void."

6. A college senior turned a frustrating book search into a helpful app.

When Kaya Thomas realized she wasn't reading books with characters that looked like her, she wanted to do something about it.

So in 2014, she created the We Read Too, an app that would allow readers to look for books where characters of color are at the forefront of the story and suggest other titles to be added. In March, the Dartmouth College senior launched an Indiegogo to help offset the costs of improving We Read Too. Thomas ended up exceeded her goal of $10,000 in less than 24 hours.

"When young people don't see themselves represented positively in books, TV, movies and other forms of media, that erasure really harms self-image and how you perceive yourself as you grow up," Thomas said to The Huffington Post in an email.

7. Artists depicted the refugee experience through the use of suitcases.

In order to truly understand the challenges a refugee experiences, sometimes you need to see their baggage.

That's what Syrian architect and artist Mohamad Hafez did with his student and former Iraqi refugee, Ahmed Bahr, to help tell refugee stories in the most honest light and humanize the word "refugee."

The project, titled UNPACKED: Refugee Baggageincludes dioramas of the homes people had to leave behind, along with an audio recording from those refugees, explaining what each item is. The project was on display at Yale University's Whitney Humanities Center this fall.  

"By telling people's stories through art, we realized that we could captivate and hook people into these stories," Hafez said to Mashable.


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