Artist Activist


“You don’t have to be famous to be an artist activist,” she says. “You just need to produce works that not only entertain, but challenge audiences to critically think about the greater good, to help promote social justice and equality, and to create a better world.”

“But what is the greater good? A better world?” she asks.

These are questions the artist activist asks over and over again, in each work. The questions take different shapes. Sometimes they are about values and politics: What is just in a global world? Fair in a global economy? What is gender equality in face of cultural diversity?  Freedom in the context of religious norms? Peace within the framework of nationalism? Sometimes the questions are intimate, exploring how personal life can reflect the larger social ties that bind, constraining freedom and expression, love and compassion, as well as individual development.

“Continuous study in politics, history, philosophy, and ethical development is necessary. This helps to place one’s own thinking in relation to the thoughts of others who, across time, have inquired into concepts about the good and the right, the fair and the just.”

About practical concerns: “If possible, think broadly about venues for your work.” Over her career, Stephanie, who is a Professor Emeritus at Antioch University Los Angeles, has taken her activism into a variety of venues. “I’ve worked in educational settings where students and faculty engage in questions raised by the production, in clubs where banter deconstructs and reconstructs stereotypic content, and given benefit concerts raising funds for good causes and also raising consciousness.”

“As a playwright, performer and producer, the artist activist not only does his or her own original work but participates in specific projects of merit by others, as well.” 

“And consider partnerships in order to see that the social issues being addressed in an artwork get deeper expression through forums and discussion. I did this with many projects. Partnerships also help with finding funding sources. Often partner organizations serve as a non-profit base and assist in writing grants and approaching donors. And learn to write your own grants. It is crucial to being an artist activist.”

One guiding principle suggested by Stephanie: “Whether directly or indirectly, the artist activist wants to connect the work to larger social movements. With this, the piece is more than art for art’s sake. It is art that works on the cultural front of historic social change.”  Gray Panther leader Maggie Kuhn saw this in an early work by Stephanie -- the play, Blue Heaven. Kuhn wrote to Stephanie about how the piece served as an aid to the struggle combating ageism and discrimination.


1982-to present, AULA Bachelor of Liberal Studies Program, Core Faculty, Chairperson, Professor Emeritus

Ms. Solomon served as the Chairperson of the BA Program for nine years. She provided educational leadership for the program that served 280 adult learners and employed 90 adjunct faculty and seven full-time faculty members. Her contributions included designing and implementing a model of education that promoted academic excellence, social justice, and innovative pedagogy. Before assuming the Chairperson position, she created a Gerontology Concentration and developed an internship program at Antioch. Ms. Solomon taught at Antioch for over 18 years in the areas of Human Development and Gerontology, as well as in the Arts.

Courses taught at Antioch include: Child Development; Psychology of Aging; Adult Development; Studies in Gerontology; Social Policy and Aging; Seeing Film Politically; Alienation-Marx and Freud; Gender Narratives: Gilligan and Chodorow; Concepts of the Tragic in Adult Development. Ms. Solomon also contributed many articles to the Antioch Community on pedagogy.

Grants and awards include: The Jay and Deborah Last Fellowship for Creative, Performing Artists/Writers, 2010; Nathan Cummings Grant, Manzanar: An American Story for Antioch University 2005-06; Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Regional Arts Grant for Jazz, Gender and Justice, 2000. (Wrote and received many other grants from agencies and foundations, in collaboration with others, for a variety of projects. These sources include CCLPE, the California Council for the Humanities, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Roth Family Foundation,) Antioch University Distinguished Service Award, 1994; Norman Topping Fellowship, University of Southern California, 1977-79; Phi Beta Kappa, and Honor Society, University of California, Berkeley, 1970-71.

B.A. Dramatic Literature, UC Berkeley,1971. M.S. Gerontology, University of Southern California, 1979. M.A. Psychology, New School for Social Research, 1987.

Stephanie Glass Solomon has spent her career in the arts exploring this question. This website presents a collage of her works and thinking on the subject. There are many other artist activists working around the globe who have different concepts about what they intend and how they see themselves. Stephanie’s approach reflects her particular focus and cultural context, and is part of the larger dialogue about activism through art.

“I am pleased to find a play about older people that embeds their problems directly in the problems of the social structure. The play depicts a human situation faced by many older women and men, and forcefully and accurately portrays their feelings and deeds without the usual stereotyping! It forces us to see right into the workings of capitalism, focusing on the societal influences that complicate old age in America. . . Everyone looks for models of empowered people fighting for themselves and one another. As an activist, I am grateful for the help an artistic work like Blue Heaven can be on the cultural front.”  (Kuhn, March 3, 1980)

What else might the artist activist do? “Work directly with communities to develop pieces. I did this with Blue Heaven through acting workshops conducted in a community relevant to the piece. And interview whoever can contribute to helping you give voice to those whose voices are marginalized in the arts - anyone who can help you express people’s aspirations for wholeness.”

Photo by Anita Daniel