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CREATIVE VOICES

Art as Activism: Kate DeCiccio, Community Artist

By Kristi Highum and Charles Purdy

Artist, activist, and educator Kate DeCiccio believes that art can be a powerful tool for self-reflection, for resistance, and for building relationships and community. One of her poster creations was highly visible at the Women’s March on Washington, to which she also brought a large artwork in her continuing series addressing the effects of police brutality. Learn more about DeCiccio in our video profile.

If you were one of the millions of people who attended Women’s Marches across the country on the Saturday after Inauguration Day this year, you’ve seen Kate DeCiccio’s artwork in action. Her poster Embracing Eachother was one of the posters chosen by the Amplifier Foundation to be distributed, for free, as part of their ongoing mission to amplify community voices.

But although the Women’s March was the first time that digital copies of her work were distributed, it wasn't the first time DeCiccio had shared her posters at a march or protest. She explains, “Generally, I use stencils that I've already created, and I'll make between 20 and 50 signs on cardboard and pass them out…. For the Women's March, because I had digital images, I was able to send people downloads, and Amplifier printed literally thousands of them.”  

DeCiccio brings her background as an educator and a mental health and substance abuse counselor to her current work as an artist-activist, which she says “is driven by my interests in equity, mental health, humor, community building, and of course a passion for the activity of art-making.” Recent series include her Black Lives Matter posters, which feature portraits of parents who have lost children to police brutality, and murals created in collaboration with young people in their communities. As an educator and art advocate, she has done extensive work among incarcerated and institutionalized youths and adults. Much of her work focuses on themes of deconstructing the prison industrial system and building communities. 

She says, “In communities where people really understand art as a social tool, we see healthier, happier, more engaged people.”

Join DeCiccio at the March—click on the image below to watch our Creative Voices video.

You can download DeCiccio’s Embracing Eachother poster and other artwork from the Amplifier Foundation website. Learn more about their mission and then click on Free Downloads for posters, stencils, GIFs, and more.

photographs of women political protesters

Photographer Cindy Trinh took the photo (left) behind DeCiccio’s now-iconic poster (DeCiccio submitted three works to the Amplifier Foundation, which selected this one to produce). DeCiccio says that the photograph’s subject represented what she wanted to say with the poster, as well as the themes of unity and solidarity that were central to the vision of the Women’s March. “It was a woman who, to me, embodied a lot of the messaging that I was going for in this poster.... She could have been gay. She could have been straight. She could have been queer—a lot of things. I wanted to come up with messaging that embodied the idea of the fullness of womanhood and how the Women’s March could be a commitment for us to become our fullest by supporting one another.... To see so many posters and that women chose to carry my poster of all the things that they could choose…when you make art like that, you're trying to think, ‘How can I make something with messaging that affirms the experience that people are having or the goal that we're working toward?’ That was just incredible and overwhelming. It felt really like ‘This is why you do this work.’”