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Columbia College Chicago
What Describes you?

What Describes you?

OOP BroadsheetAs you may and should know, part of Columbia College’s mission is to ‘Create Change.’  What Art + Activism: Critical Encounters wants to know is how our community is doing just that. While we explore ways of applying art to activism, and vice versa, we consider the people that we are and the people that we are becoming. Art + Activism: Critical Encounters challenges us all to think about the ways in which our creative energy can be utilized as thought-provoking advocacy for change.

On August 31, Art + Activism: Critical Encounters hosted a booth at New Student Convocation. Beyond introductory purposes and the launching of a new brand, we initiated a general conversation about art and activism while inviting our visitors to take part in a conversation about social justice. Faced with three baskets of pins inscribed Oppressed, Oppressor, and Liberator, participants were asked to take a pin that they felt described them and to explain their selections.

“Because information is liberating.”

“Because I feel like freeing everyone today.”

“Because I’m an artist.”

Engaged or confused, people reacted to the pins as we suspected. Let’s just say that we never had to restock the Oppressor basket. Most students took the Liberator pin or a dual combination of pins. Many people took all three. Several students did not know what the term ‘oppression’ meant, while scores of students directed their peers as to which pins to take (concurrently forgetting to grab their Oppressor pins). Some took pins simply because they collect them and others seemed nervous as to having to provide reasoning for their decision-making. 

“What does it mean?”

“Do I have to take one?”

“Can I be both?”

The ‘Oppressor, Oppressed, Liberator’ conversation is one which materializes naturally. It’s a consideration posed to our community with no answer, no right, no wrong: we simply want to have a discussion that encourages student artists to think critically and to recognize their potential to influence the world. Audre Lorde said, “There is no hierarchy of oppression.”  The point of the Oppressor, Oppressed, Liberator pins is to highlight an infinite dynamic: we are all of these things all of the time.  

As new students join our community eager to improve their craft and expand their skill sets, they encounter opportunities at Columbia to hear and to be heard.  In discussing the ways in which we affect the world around us, we can better see what is and what can be.

Are you going to create change?

“That’s the plan.”


"I'm a Liberator: Because I’m an artist; Because I feel like freeing everyone today; To change things you gotta start something; It’s what I strive to be; I refuse to see one side; Because I don’t want to be an oppressor; Because I gave breakfast to a homeless man.

"I'm Oppressed because: That’s what everybody’s dream is (to be the liberator), but that’s how it is (oppressed); I was stared at by a guy on the subway for a long time; I met a guy and he asked for my phone number, but he already had a girlfriend; Cuz I’m a woman living in a man’s world."

"I’m studying market communications. So you’re an oppressor because you’re telling other people what to think.

“What does it mean?”  “Do I have to take one?”  “Can I be both?”



Which describes you? Email us at criticalencounters@colum.edu. Get your button at  Art + Activism: Critical Encounters sponsored events.