5 Art Projects by Teen Activists around the World

Nadja Garacic Wave Art Projects

These art projects draw attention to important issues around the globe.

Imagine this: You’re a modern-day teenager who can hoverboard to school, Snapchat your entire day, see where your friends are at any given moment, become a YouTube sensation with no more equipment than the phone in your pocket, and you’ve never been to a public library because — hello! — the internet. The sheer volume of time-consuming possibilities teens have makes my head hurt. They are the first generation to grow up without knowledge of a pre-internet existence, but they have not forgotten what past generations know very well — art, in any form, can provoke change.

Teens today are paying attention to the world around them and expressing how they feel about some of the most important environmental, societal and political problems through artistic means. It’s a relief to know that just as TV did not rot previous generations’ brains, the internet has not killed creativity. To prove my point, I found great art projects created by teens around the world that raise awareness for causes and compiled some of my favorites. Their talent and ingenuity will make you proud of the next generation of leaders and give you hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Street Art

CastleArt2Photo courtesy of Taylor Smith

A group of young artists living in the Akré Syrian refugee camp in Kurdistan-Iraq are making the former Saddam-era prison and intelligence center they now call home a happier place through street art.

As part of the Rise Foundation’s Castle Art project, teens and children “hold paintbrushes and spray cans against this interruption to their lives, bringing color, energy, voice and hope to the dreary walls of the refugee camp in Akré, Dohuk, province.”

“When somebody is sad and they hold the brush, they can tell the world how they feel…”

The kids have transformed the Akré refugee camp into a work of art thanks to their hard work and artistic talents. Their participation provides an outlet where they can express their emotions and process what has happened in their lives and the lives of those close to them.

“When somebody is sad and they hold the brush, they can tell the world how they feel… It is like an explosion — when the heart is holding too much, it beats, and you can’t reveal it, it explodes inside you,” artist Najah explains of creating art.

CastleArt1Photo courtesy of Taylor Smith

Each participating artist has big plans for their future, but one thing they all want is peace in Syria.

“I want to help people and rebuild Syria, rebuild everything that is destroyed,” Nafia, who dreams of becoming a teacher, said.

To learn more about the Castle Art project and how you may support their cause, visit Castle Art’s Tumblr page.

Video Games

PoliceOfficerGameImage provided by The Plug-In Studio and Jabarie Barnes

Thirteen teen artists from the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, collaborated with The Plug-In Studio, a new media art collective that works with underserved communities on art projects, for their Street Arcade to create video games on social issues. Their work is impressive, to say the least. The 8-bit-style games deal with prejudice, obesity, peer pressure, racial profiling, immigration and other hot-button topics.

Gary Willis explained why he chose racial profiling for his game, Can You Serve And Protect? “I am African-American and I see on the news how the police are killing my kind. It kind of hurts me and I want to just change that to make a better world not only for my community but for everybody else.”

In The Great Escape, Jabarie Barnes focuses on immigration and inclusion.

Cactus8BitImage provided by The Plug-In Studio and Jabarie Barnes

“In order to get along, it’s a good thing to embrace other people. So to prevent them through locking them out of your country and making it extremely hard to cross the border struck me as an important social issue,” Barnes said.

Each game is uniquely crafted, using visuals and text designed by the teen, to showcase exactly how they want the social issue portrayed. To make the experience fully immersive, The Plug-In Studio has made the games available to play online.

Photography and Video

No one likes a bully, and for years there have been campaigns against bullying in every form of media — but it continues to be a problem. A group of Indonesian teens is using the power of Instagram and YouTube to fight against bullying with photography and video.

The donthide_id Instagram page works to “empower bullying victims” in cooperation with Sudah Dong [Please Stop], an antibullying movement in Indonesia created by 18-year-old Katyana Ward. To show their support, individuals share a photo of themselves with a message for bullying victims as part of the #DONTHIDE campaign.

“I felt moved and inspired because I believe a lot of Indonesian children also quit school because they feel inferior and they are bullied,” Ward wrote along with her #DONTHIDE photo.



“Accept no one’s definition of yourself,” supporter Jeremy’s photo caption reads.

The group also produces videos featuring teens sharing their views on bullying and posts them on YouTube. Their stories are powerful and draw attention to a global issue affecting people of all ages.

To show your support for the #DONTHIDE movement, follow donthide_id on Instagram.


ImmigrantsSculptureBowPhoto courtesy of Popi Nikolaou, Apostolos Loukas Lyceum

Under the tutelage of their art teacher Popi Nikolaou and with the help of donations from the local community, eight public high school students from the Apostolos Loukas Lyceum in Kolossi, Cyprus, created an art installation, “Immigrants,” which demonstrates the Syrian refugee crisis.

Immigrant sShip Side ArtworkPhoto courtesy of Popi Nikolaou, Apostolos Loukas Lyceum

Lifelike figures of adults and children made out of expanding foam are found drowning near an old fishing boat. The students chose to raise awareness of the refugee crisis because of how photographs in the media, especially of children, have affected them. They used their own faces to create casts for the piece and drew influence from newspaper and magazine images of drowning refugees.

The teens’ compelling work earned the top prize at a competition sponsored by the London Saatchi Gallery and Deutsche Bank.


NadjaGaracicWaveArtwork by Nadja Garacic

Serbian high school student Nadja Garacic took inspiration from Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” to channel her feelings regarding ocean pollution. In her painting “30 Views of Plastic,” the waves are comprised of plastic waste to demonstrate its accumulation in the ocean. Nadja believes more attention should be given to water sources and that people must be made aware that plastic can destroy the lives of sea animals and plants while being a contributor to global warming.

“Global warming is a huge threat to our planet. Be careful to oceans; they may get revenge,” Nadja wrote as part of her reflection for the painting.

Nadja’s work earned her an award in the Ocean Awareness Student Contest conducted by From The Bow Seat, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the health and future of the world’s oceans. The organization collaborates with students around the world through its awareness programs to empower their creativity through activism, while providing scholarship awards for their outstanding artistic works. To learn more, visit their websiteend


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