Where words fall short, art rises.
Words often form the foundation for necessary change-making: letters to representatives, petitions, slogans, calls to action. But sometimes, we need more than words to express our hunger for change — that’s when we turn to art, music, movement, and other creative mediums to call for unity and amplify one powerful message to leaders and decision-makers everywhere that can't be ignored.
That’s where Global Citizen’s Young Artists Collective program comes in. Designed to be a showcase of artworks that coincide with Global Citizen-hosted events, the program calls upon young artists to showcase their abilities, while also using their talents to emphasize the need for urgent change. Each presentation is based on a specific theme; a question that the artists can answer by way of their art.
Earlier in 2023 for instance, coinciding with the Global Citizen NOW summit, young artists in the New York tri-state area were invited to submit their interpretations of the correlation between climate change and extreme poverty.
At this year’s Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park, a new topic was chosen, and new artists were called on to use their skills to illustrate a cause.
These are the 12 artists who took the theme: “Equity & Its Effects on Today’s World”, and showed the world just what that looks like to them, through art.
A young visual artist whose work for this topic was inspired by her grandmother's living room, Tara Bryan took us into her lens to show a sense of familiarity through formal and conceptual portraiture.
“This project celebrates contemporary Black women who have been actively combating inequity in their related fields,” she said of the black and white photographs. “The culmination of the series is a reimagined self portrait of Gordon Parks’ American Gothic. American Gothic has remained a symbol of the strength and resilience of Black women.”
She added: “I wanted this series to demonstrate the importance of community, starting with those who came before me, and ending with myself.”
Ali Motamedi focuses across three professional disciplines: art, engineering, and education — and he uses his understanding and skills in all three areas to inform his photography.
He called the collection “They Are Watching Us,” an ominous yet provoking title that conveys the depth of his pieces. He explained that his project for the Young Artists Collective works to unveil “the pervasive influence of advertising and commercialization on our lives.”
“Through striking imagery, it exposes the unequal impact of consumerism, cultural representation, privacy intrusion, and community dynamics,” he told us. “This series provides a vivid lens to examine how these factors shape and disrupt equity in our modern world.”
The gender pay gap is the main focus of the work that Sophia Strange provided for the Young Artists Collective. Her pieces focus on the statistic, provided by the World Economic Forum, that it’ll still take 131 years to close the disparity between men and women’s earnings.
“This work includes and involves women of all professions, backgrounds, and walks of life,” they told us. “The number ‘131’ is present in each photo to communicate the fact that regardless of the individual woman's life, the gender wage gap is always there — perhaps not in the foreground, but present nevertheless; a testament to the persistence of this inequity and our ever-present need to make positive change.”
Deni Espinoza uses their camera lens to capture the truths and lived experiences of marginalized communities. The images give a balanced look at resilience when faced with inequity, and moments of serenity and joy despite adversity.
“The photos I've selected have deep meaning to me as they capture how I experience the current state of the world,” Espinoza explained. “I have watched women's legal rights decline, income inequality skyrocket, education be censored, and much more in the 23 years of my existence. Through activism and hardship, there is resilience and rejoicing. Each photo represents an issue that I am passionate about or a sentimental moment that brought me joy.”
“My momma sowed the seeds to my perennial garden," is the name of multidisciplinary artist and photographer Stevia Ndoe’s submission, and it explores the significance of generational access and mobility.
“Equity to me is having the resources, knowledge, emotional and physical capacity that can be passed onto the next generation so that they can dream expansively and understand their beauty, importance, and infinite abundance,” they told us.
They continued: “The series represents portraits of the women in my life who have given me the tools — whether through information, love and care, or encouragement — and giving them their flowers, as well as self-portraits that portray my journey to adulthood.”
Leo Sano’s response to the topic of equity reminds the viewer to open their eyes, look up, and bear witness to the realities of the world around us — and understand that an answer to it exists among us.
“These photos are not trying to create an idea of equity but rather demonstrate where the concept is at present,” said Sano. “Maybe it is between two family members riding a bike, or graffiti encircling construction sites. Questions of fairness, impartialness, and equity always come into view.”
“If we can all pay a little more attention to the world around us, I trust that we will get closer to a place with liberty and justice for all,” he said.
“Living in an Asian American household, I believe that sons have it easier than daughters,” said Statistics and Quantitative Modeling student Blanche Lin of her submission. “It's harder to please the older generation if you are a girl.”
Sharing more detail on her work, she noted: “In one picture, you can see a boy, my little brother, walking on a path with flowers and butterflies, but in another picture, a girl, my little sister, is seen walking a darker and woodier path, both leading to the light.”
Through these images, she worked to shed light on localized gender disparities within households, and how they contribute to the lives and futures of young people. She hopes that her work will encourage viewers to recognize and challenge these disparities.
Carlos Suazo used this prompt as an opportunity to investigate the depths of equity and inequality in Cuba, a country that continuously strives for social justice and independence for all, but amid a restricted civic space.
“The images I took paint Cuba in a romantic but also critical lens,” said Suazo. “I saw the landscape and it seemed almost post-apocalyptic and the infrastructure was literally falling apart but at the same time I knew this was at the cost of the nations' independence.”
Suazo took away from the experience that while there is a determination and hunger to uphold freedom and independence in the country, there remains massive inequalities that weigh on its people.
Juliana Serna Mesa
Juliana Serna Mesa took to the heart of Harlem to capture the role that working foreign-national women and women of color play in upholding the community.
“Through this series of photography shoots, my aim is to shine a spotlight on the remarkable diversity of women laborers, many of whom hail from immigrant backgrounds and Latino and African descendant communities,” she said. “These women are the unsung heroes of our society, contributing tirelessly to the street industry while often facing unique challenges.”
Mesa explained that through the images she captured, she hopes to “break down stereotypes and promote a future where every woman, regardless of her background, is recognized, respected, and given the opportunities she deserves.”
She added: “This series is a celebration of their daily stories, their triumphs, their neighborhood, and their unyielding dedication to a brighter, more equitable future for all.”
“The images show income inequality and its effects on housing and the overall quality of life in this Gypsy enclave living in Perpignan,” said Gabrielle Laguerre of her photographs.
The collection is called “Gypsy Streets of Perpignan,” and it highlights the juxtaposition of a city rich in history and culture and the inequitable lives of the marginalized individuals who live there.
“You can also see in these images how marginalized communities often bear the brunt of environmental conditions, so it is also a question of environmental justice,” she said. “When poverty and racial and ethnic equity affect segments of a city’s population, as well as disparities in services to those communities, viewers can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by disadvantaged people and the importance of striving for a more equitable world.”
Jared Rosales’ work pulls focus from two women in the Bronx in New York City, who created beauty where there was once nothing.
“These two women are best friends that found an empty space in the Bronx to create a garden where it was needed for the community,” she explained.
Centering her pieces on these women serves as a reminder to support grassroots movements and community-based initiatives that are working to better the world in any way they can.
She said: “They are hardworking and eloquent folks that help around the co-op community to encourage children and teenagers to go beyond society’s barriers by using their garden as a place to learn and work.”
“The primary focus of my project is to [normalize the discussion on] menstruation, even though in today’s society it makes a lot of people uncomfortable,” visual arts student Kahohn Jackson told us.
His work spotlights the inaccessibility of menstrual hygiene products for those who need them most, including as a result of tampon tax, and encourages an openness in discussing periods and menstrual health in order to deal with period poverty and gender inequality.
“Many issues that surround periods like endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and heavy menstrual bleeding need to be openly discussed,” he said. “Furthermore, we must address and change major gender-based taxes like the pink tax and the tampon tax.”