Steve Lambert and Steve Duncombe

The Center for Artistic Activism was founded by Steve Lambert and Steve Duncombe. In 2009, Duncombe, a veteran activist, and Lambert, an accomplished artist, found one another. Duncombe was sick of planning protests that were routine, colorless and ineffective, and Lambert was frustrated by political art that few saw and impacted less. They both thought the other one might have the answer. They quickly learned that neither did. But together they began researching how arts and activism could work together. Eager to share what they had discovered, they turned this research into a series of training workshops they have brought to activists and artists worldwide.

Steve Lambert’s father, a former Franciscan monk, and mother, an ex-Dominican nun, imbued the values of dedication, study, poverty, and service to others – qualities which prepared him for life as an artist. For Lambert, art is a bridge that connects uncommon, idealistic, or even radical ideas with everyday life. In 2008 Lambert worked with hundreds of people on “The New York Times Special Edition,” a utopian version of the paper announcing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other good news. In 2011 he built a 20 x 9 foot sign that reads CAPITALISM WORKS FOR ME!, allowing people passing by to vote TRUE or FALSE and is touring it across the United States. His work has been shown everywhere from marches to museums both nationally and internationally, has appeared in over fourteen books, and four documentary films. He was a Senior Fellow at New York’s Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology from 2006-2010, developed and leads workshops for Creative Capital Foundation, taught at Parsons/The New School, CUNY Hunter College, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and is currently Associate Professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase. Steve has advanced degrees from a reputable art school and respected state university. He dropped out of high school in 1993.

Stephen Duncombe has over two decades of experience as both a teacher and an organizer. With a PhD in Sociology from the City University of New York, he has taught at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY), and he is currently a Professor of Media and Culture at New York University (NYU). He received the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching while at SUNY and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at NYU. An activist his entire life, he co-founded a multi-issue community activist group in the mid 1990s, the Lower East Side Collective, which won an award for “Creative Activism” from the Abbie Hoffman foundation. He was also a lead organizer in the international direct action group Reclaim the Streets. He is the author and editor of six books, including Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and the Cultural Resistance Reader, writes on culture and politics for a wide range of scholarly and popular publications, and is the creator of an open-access, open-source, web-based edition of Thomas More’s Utopia.

The Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA) is a New York City based nonprofit dedicated to transforming the practices of art and activism, maximizing their impact and efficacy in bringing about social change. Through our pioneering intensive trainings, long-term mentoring and in-depth qualitative research we strengthen the connections between social justice activism and creative artistic practice. The mission of the C4AA is to: (1) help artists to strategize more like activists and activists to create more like artists; (2) build a global network of practitioners and researchers in the field of artistic activism; (3) institute and sustain the study of artistic activism as an effective and affective practice to strengthen the field and create a culture of creative change.

Over the past 8 years, we have trained nearly 1000 artists and activists in-person across the United States, a dozen countries, and 4 continents and thousands more online. We have developed 4 unique training programs, produced a podcast on using pop culture for progressive politics, provided a free webinar series, built a user-generated database of case studies (, conducted artist interviews to build a map of the currently existing activity taking place in this field, organized a global alumni network, launched a multi-stage research project, given lectures around the world, served as experts on artistic activism for the press, and written numerous publications, including a forthcoming book on artistic activism theory and practice.

Through our work and training programs we have reached diverse groups of people: avant-garde artists in Russia and art students in public High Schools in NYC, undocumented youth immigration activists in South Texas and Sex Work advocates in South Africa, Muslim- American activists in New York, Iraq War Veterans in Chicago, mothers of incarcerated youth in Houston, transgender activists from Eastern Europe, artists supporting public health access in South Africa and Kenya, Macedonian Queer and Roma artists and activists, and dissident artists from Russia, Pakistan, and China. These are thousands of artists working on scores of social justice and environmental issues.