Curating Activism: Frederick Douglass Week

Clare Gallagher (Curator), Emma Campbell (Artist), Alessia Cargnelli (Artist), Sarah Tehan (Artist), Laura O'Connor (Artist), Aidan O'Neill (Artist), Donal Talbot (Artist), Jolene Mairs Dyer (Artist), Jennie Carlsten (Artist), Oonagh Parish (Artist), Janine Uprichard (Artist), Eileen Weir (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


Curated by Dr Clare Gallagher for Frederick Douglass Week 2024, this exhibition brought together photography, film/video and social media by artists and grassroots organisations whose work highlights pressing social issues and makes calls for change audible and visible. The public exhibition was held in the foyer of the Belfast School of Art throughout Douglass Week. It launched with a panel talk on the themes of the exhibition and concluded with a workshop on queer utopias as a response to rising hate crime.

Artists: Dr Emma Campbell, Dr Laura O’Connor, Dr Alessia Cargnelli, Sarah Tehan, Aidan O’Neill, Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer, Belfast Feminist Film School, A Culture of Hope, Sarah Kay & Brendan Harkin, Donal Talbot

Exhibition Text: Art and activism are interwoven in Northern Ireland in myriad ways: life here has given us a lot to challenge, through conflict, reproductive injustice, hate crime and social inequalities. The mainstream media and cultural representations have often failed to adequately reflect these issues, instead focusing on simplistic depictions and homogenous voices.

The artists here are part of a significant movement which brings together creative forces and social concerns to communicate with sensitivity, humour, eloquence and freshness. They present a grassroots alternative to our often-broken political system as a means to press for meaningful, longlasting change.

Some of these artists are part of the Turner Prize-winning Array Collective whose sibín documented performative protests in support of legalising abortion and gay marriage and brought these local issues to a wider audience. Others take a stand against persistent gender inequalities or the disturbing rise in queer hate crime.

Art in the North of Ireland, though growing out of a tiny place, has long found empathy and connection with global issues. Some of the work here carefully addresses overlooked and marginalised communities from outside our traditional domestic binaries, such as survivors of the Yezidi genocide, the missing Black bodies in the archives of war, and the experiences of refugees arriving to a context of hostile state rhetoric.

All these artists propose collective action as a shared response to inequality and injustice. They insist on the validity and visibility of marginalised subjects and voices, and use art to inspire change through warmth, persistence and solidarity.

Dr Clare Gallagher
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBelfast School of Art
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 14 Apr 2024


  • activism
  • Art
  • marginalised
  • Feminism
  • refugees
  • queer
  • yezidi
  • collective action


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