Street Smarts: Harnessing the Creativity of Urban Activism


Does your organization take its activism to the street? This low budget urban social movement can be done with little funding and lots of creativity.

Here are some recent examples that come to mind. I know there are lots more– and would love to hear your examples.

Scientists on the Train

Hebrew University researchers take to the train for free monthly lecture series in specially designated compartments.

Recent lectures include a profile of Albert Einstein’s contribution to humanity (in honor of his March birthday which marks Israel Science Day), physics experiments in motion, and Israel’s development of new food crops, like genetically modified tomatoes.

My favorite quote from a passenger, “It was weird, but good.”

What would your organization do to go public? Lectures on trains and singing on street corners may seem extreme, but there’s always a lesson to be had in translating your mission and objectives into hands-on contact with constituents.

— Is Your Organization Brave Enough to Sing on Street Corners and Write on the Walls? Keep Reading to Find Out Who Is —

Music in the (Food) Court

Not long ago, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra took to the court, the food court that is, in the center of Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square.

There they mingled amongst diners and broke out into Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” in a stunning study of bringing an organization and its art form to an uninitiated audience.

You have to see it to believe it, so click on the video below.

Israeli Street Art

Are these two examples outliers? No way. Public expressions of art are manifested throughout the country.

Street art is a powerful medium that is almost ubiquitous to Israel’s urban centers. It is commonplace to see art on bus stops and walls, and pretty much any public protrusion is fair game for the street artist’s paint brush or spray can.

Picture 159

The hat people wants you!

City croquis

Stencil mosque

2009-01-23 at 16-14-26

Israeli Art as Innovation

While dramatic art, as performed by the “Scientists on the Train” and Israeli Philharmonic, is a different art form than wall paintings, they are both emblematic of the central role of art and innovation in Israeli culture.

Israel’s hunger for artful self-expression is evident from the walls of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to our very physical geography.

(Here’s a view of the Azrieli tour and a Gaudi style building near the beach.)

We crave creativity in our interactions with our surroundings and pride artful expressions of it in even the most unusual settings. (If you need reinforcement of this idea, go back and watch the reactions of the crowd in the videos.)


Gaudi Tel Aviv

Learn More About Israeli Street Art

To learn more about Israeli public art, check out these photo pools on Flickr (most of whose photos are copyrighted, but they make for excellent browsing).

As well as this excellent blog, which features many photos and videos:


Last but not least, I want to hear your stories. There are tens of examples of performance activism that I’ve heard about over the years. Will you share yours with The New Jew’s readers?

Moreover, if these stories have inspired you to act out artfully in your own passionate pursuits– be they personal or professional– it’d be great to hear about your plans. Please comment below.

Photo Credits

Many thanks to those who mark their photos, especially of public art, with the Creative Commons license.

Flickr photo credit is as follows:



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5 Responses to Street Smarts: Harnessing the Creativity of Urban Activism

  1. Maya Norton says:

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    ~ Maya

  2. Hi Maya,
    Very cool examples! I’m so glad that you shared them. Great thread!

  3. Michael says:

    Cool, this is great – so artists will work for free, lets take as much advantage of them as we can – they can help build our movement. Please let me know if there are other people we can take advantage of – I need free rent, food, transportation and medical for example.

    Oh – and if you are an artist – and not wiling to work for free and be a scab, be sure to tell the author of this post. ART STRIKE!

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