The ArtEffect - Art and Social Justice

Each year, I look for new social justice projects that will get my students excited about making a difference through art.  I want them to know that art can influence, speak, and move people to become better for themselves and better for each other.  For the last two years, my students have participated in an unsung heroes art project/competition that has impacted how they see the world and moved them to believing that one person can truly make a difference. This year, I am ecstatic to announce that one of my students, Molly Cahill, received the grand prize of $7,500 for her artwork celebrating unsung hero Mitsuye Endo!

This all started with my good friend and former Tennessee art educator, Brad LeDuc, who now teaches in Topeka, Kansas, when he shared with me The ArtEffect, a project/competition he initiated through the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. In this project, students can choose to celebrate an already discovered Unsung Hero throughout history or discover one of their own.  They spend a significant amount of time researching and immersing themselves in the chosen Unsung Hero’s story.  The invaluable information that they discover on their own inspires them to create an interpretation that celebrates the extraordinary life of the Unsung Hero.  Their artworks are supported with an artist statement where the students verbalize their process, thinking, and vision behind the artwork; a true cross-disciplinary experience! 

Part of the Lowell Milken Center arts initiative is to teach students the power they hold to creative positive change in the world.  It has truly brought excitement about learning and a sense of community and humanity into my classroom.  A free 10 step lesson plan can be downloaded to guide your instruction every step of the way.  I highly recommend participating in this experience!

The Lowell Milken Center graciously awards cash prizes totaling $13,500 to winners in this competition.  It is open to U.S. and international students in grades 6-12 and is free to enter.  Details can be found at

I’d love to see or hear about your results from this project!  Feel free to contact me at