“Join or Die” was Benjamin Franklin’s call to arms during the American Revolution. His cartoon, first published May 9, 1754, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, was a rallying challenge for the colonies. The visual impact of a severed snake jolted the colonists to action against the British iron rule and led to years of uprising, fighting but eventful freedom. Image and words were the catalysts.

A revolution starts because change is needed – the American Revolution and Civil War were political revolts, but civil problems of poverty and discrimination have also started revolutions. Words and symbols grab peoples’ attention and can be vehicles to ignite passion and action. Art uses color and images that spark a visceral response, whether emotional or physical, for action against injustice. It can give people concrete forms and pictures to rally around, highlighting larger principles. Art can also be an external representation of internal feelings, spurring action in a “so what”, apathetic culture. It can spark imagination just as effectively as it can inspire hope for a better future. Art is a powerful force to engage people with truth.

As you remember our freedom this month, consider the power art can be in society and in your own life.