Studies have shown that art therapy programs can have a powerful impact on the human mind—building confidence, bringing a sense of creative self-determination, and even repairing neural pathways. In a number of prisons across the U.S., art therapy programs help inmates learn vital life skills while instilling a sense of self-worth. Artistic Noise focuses on young people incarcerated or otherwise involved in the justice system, offering them art programs in New York and Massachusetts and encouraging them to become mentors for younger participants. Testimonies from former participants illustrate the powerful effect this organization has on young lives, giving them a voice and a means to express themselves in nonviolent ways. “Artistic Noise gave me a voice I never had,” one testimony reads. “When I turned 18, [Department of Youth Services] kicked me out with no knowledge of the real world, and Artistic Noise took me in. I think to myself, where would I be without Artistic Noise, maybe dead or in jail.”
Since the beginning, art has been an essential tool for AIDS activism. Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS has roots in that history. The foundation supports and presents exhibitions, projects, and publications that use art to address the complex issues—namely poverty, homophobia, and racism—underlying the AIDS epidemic and its historical and continuing stigmatization. Crucially, the organization aims to make visible and bring dignity to those living with HIV or AIDS. It is also responsible for the world’s largest database of artwork created by artists living with the disease. Founded in 1994, the Archive Project began as a research and slide library dedicated to preserving the work of artists with HIV/AIDS. Now, Artist+ Registry, which launched in 2012 as a digital registry for many of these original slides, serves as an important resource for educating current and future generations about the experiences of those who suffered with the disease and society’s neglect—a prejudice we have yet to fully overcome.