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Our third SPRINTS tackles freedom of expression

Artwork by Atanas Giew for Fine Acts

Artwork by Atanas Giew for Fine Acts

In less than a year, we’ve organized three editions of SPRINTS, our weekend-long creative bootcamp exploring the intersection of human rights and visual arts. It is part of Fine Acts' laboratories for human rights innovation and is fuelled by our concept of #playtivisim – the need for multidisciplinary play in activism.

In this edition, we gave 11 artists 48 hours to take a hard look at the topic of freedom of expression, focusing on press freedom, hate speech and trust in the media. 

Photos: Radina Gancheva

Photos: Radina Gancheva

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In SPRINTS, visual artists produce artworks, that range from posters and postcards to GIFs and videos. Take a look at the latest batch of works here.

All creative works produced during SPRINTS are  shown at our dedicated pop-up exhibitions, and then made available online through a Creative Commons license on TheAmmo.org, allowing activists and nonprofits from around the world to use them to make their work or campaigns more visible. Powerful visual content not only drives coverage but also fosters empathy and pushes engagement.

Artists who participated in SPRINTS 3.0:

Aleksandra Georgieva, Atanas Giew, Daniela Yankova, Ilian Iliev, Ivaylo Nedkov, Jana Dobreva, Kostadin Kokalanov, Mila Lozanova, Rositsa Raleva, Teodor Georgiev, Vasil Germanov.

The third edition of SPRINTS was supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Southeast Europe, Goethe-Institut, with the general support of Open Society Foundations. The event would also not be possible without the Association of European Journalists, Cohones Beer, Trastena Wines, Skaptobara, TimeHeroes, and our hosts at KO-OP and Cosmos Coworking Camp.



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We launch our second SPRINTS on LGBTQ+ issues

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

We ended May with a bang with our second edition of SPRINTS, a weekend-long creative bootcamp exploring the intersection of human rights and visual arts. It’s part of our Fine Acts Laboratories where we play and experiment with how we can improve our human rights talk. 

The SPRINTS 2.0 was focused on LGBT+ rights, specifically exploring issues around homophobia and coming out (see exhibition gallery). We will hold more thematic events by the end of 2019 on issues covering freedom of speech and more.

Photo: Yana Lozeva

Photo: Yana Lozeva

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Powerful visual content not only drives coverage but also fosters empathy and pushes engagement. But NGOs and activists often lack the capacity and resources to make their work or campaigns visible. SPRINTS supports campaigners across the world with compelling visual works that can be used and adapted.

In SPRINTS, visual artists have just 48 hours to produce artworks that range from posters and postcards to GIFs and videos. The works are then presented at a pop-up exhibition and made available online on The Ammo, our free vault with carefully curated socially engaged visual content, open to anyone to use or adapt non commercially.

Participants in SPRINTS 2.0:

Radina Gancheva, Vesselina Nikolaeva – photographers; Sevda Semer – visual artist; Aglika Spassova, Yasen Zgurovski, Teo Georgiev, Teodor Genov – illustrators; Ilian Iliev, Viktoria Nesheva – graphic designers; Elizaveta Angelova  – typographer; Zhelez Atanasov and Vladi Gerasimov – videomakers.


The second edition of Fine Acts Sprints would not be possible without our partners Friedrich Naumann Foundation Southeast Europe and the general support of Open Society Foundations. The event was also supported by GLAS Foundation, Cosmos Coworking Camp, TimeHeroes, Trastena Wines, Finlandia Vodka, Ailyak Beer.

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My TED talk launches tomorrow!

Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Exciting news! My latest TED talk will be released on TED.com tomorrow, Tuesday, April 30. It will be available at https://go.ted.com/yanabuhrertavanier at 11 a.m. EST on the 30th – please watch & share wide!

I talk about the value of playtivism - what I call the process of incorporating play and experimentation in activism. See how multidisciplinary, creative play doesn’t just spark better ideas and effective campaigns, but could be an antidote to the high levels of burnout and depression amongst activists.  

Forever grateful to the TED Residency and TED Fellows teams for making this happen.

- Yana

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We’re Finalists in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards (again)

Our Project Light has been selected as a Finalist in Fast Company's 2019 World Changing Ideas Awards!

Project Light is a global art campaign by Fine Acts and Peek Vision. It aims to increase public understanding, engagement and support for the right to sight. 36 million people in the world are blind. Three quarters – from preventable or curable conditions. This is an invisible global injustice. Yet it is solvable within our lifetimes.

Project Light is one of ten finalists in the Creativity category of the Awards that honor "innovative solutions to issues facing humanity". 2019 was the most competitive year for the awards, with a total of nearly 2000 entries.

If you are curious about the full list of 2019 finalists and honorable mentions, check the official announcement here.

Fun fact: In 2017, our project The Future was named a finalist in the Photography/Visualization category of Fast Company's then-premiere World Changing Ideas Awards.

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Fine Acts attends the Town Hall Meeting with President Barack Obama in Berlin

Fine Acts’ Project Manager Ana Alexieva attended the Town Hall Meeting with President Barack Obama, which took place on 6 April 2019 in Berlin.

The meeting aimed at bringing together emerging leaders from across Europe, who are working in areas such as government, civil society, journalism, transparency, food security, entrepreneurship, anti-discrimination, integration issues, and technology. The event was in line with Obama Foundation’s efforts to engage young leaders in a conversation about the importance of community leadership and civic engagement, consistent with the Foundation’s mission to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world.

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A CatchLight Finalist

Beyond happy to have been selected as a 2019 CatchLight Fellowship Finalist.

CatchLight’s mission is to foster a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of the world through visual storytelling. This year CatchLight received 328 submissions from 62 different countries. The selection of the finalists was informed by excellence in visual storytelling on a vital social issue, creative distribution model, social impact potential, and the artist’s innovative leadership potential.

Here’s the full list of Fellows and Finalists.

Honored to be joining the CatchLight family.

- Yana

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Fine Acts attends the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin

Fine Acts’ Project Manager Ana Alexieva was named 2019 Young Global Changer at the Global Solutions Summit, the world policy forum, which took place between 18 and 19 March in Berlin. The Global Solutions Initiative brings together international research organizations, thought-leaders and decision-makers from across political, business and civic communities. The summit aimed to provide policy recommendations on major G20 issues and thereby served as a stepping stone to the Japanese T20 Summit in May 2019 and the Japanese G20 Summit in June 2019.

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Launching The Ammo: the free art vault for human rights defenders

We just launched TheAmmo.org, a free vault with carefully curated socially engaged visual content open to anyone to use or adapt non commercially.

We believe that art is a weapon. Powerful visual content not only drives coverage but fosters empathy and pushes engagement. But NGOs and activists often lack the capacity and resources to make their work or campaigns visible.

Our art foundry democratizes remarkably designed campaign materials (posters, cards, videos) concerning human rights issues, to be printed, shared or adapted by social justice fighters all across the world, online and offline. All featured works are published under Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA).

The platform is still in its early beta version, with a fully-functioning site launching at the end of 2019.

The initial wave of content is dedicated to the fight for women’s rights. Over the year, we will expand the artworks on other human rights issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, media freedom etc.

Currently, all featured works were produced during our innovative format Fine Acts Sprints, a creative bootcamp exploring the intersection of human rights and visual arts.

If you are an artist and are interested in supporting activists with your work by featuring it at The Ammo, drop us a line at hello@fineacts.co!

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Introducing Eat, Breathe, Pray

Statistically, nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to high levels of air pollutants that lead to serious health problems. The simple act of breathing results in early deaths for millions of people, and harms billions more. In fact, since the end of 2018, the WHO has dubbed air pollution the “new tobacco”, while the EU is calling it the “biggest environmental risk” to public health.

We just launched Eat, Breathe, Pray – our project that shines light on the issue, where we created a series of “gourmet” dishes made with common pollutants.

Learn more and see how to get involved.

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Fine Acts launches a new format – Sprints!

We launched yet another human rights innovation format called Fine Acts Sprints, a weekend-long creative bootcamp exploring the intersection of human rights and visual arts. It’s part of our Fine Acts Laboratories where we play and experiment with how we can improve our human rights talk.

NGOs and activists often lack the capacity and resources to make their work or campaigns visible. We know that powerful visual content will not only drive coverage but will foster empathy and push engagement.

In Sprints, after being briefed by experts, visual artists have just 48 hours to produce their works, that range from posters and postcards to GIFs and videos. Works are then shown in a pop-up exhibition and they are made available online on The Ammo, our free vault with carefully curated socially engaged visual content, open to anyone to use or adapt non commercially.

Our first edition took place on 17-19 February 2019 and focused on women’s rights, specifically tackling gender stereotypes and violence against women (see full gallery). We will hold three more thematic events, ranging from LGBTQ+ rights to Freedom of expression, by the end of 2019.

Participants in Fine Acts Sprints 1.0:

Albena Limoni, Borislava Willnevermadeit, Dessy Baeva, Rozalina Burkova, Stalker since 1993 – illustrators; Viktoria Nesheva, Kostadin Kokalanov, Momchil Zakhariev, Tsvetislava Koleva – graphic and typography designers; Gabrielle Minev & Rusen Minchev (GoldGrippin) – videomakers; Yana Lozeva - photographer.

The first edition of Fine Acts Sprints would not be possible without our partners Friedrich Naumann Foundation Southeast Europe, Bulgarian Fund for Women and Goethe-Institut Bulgarien, and the general support of Open Society Foundations. The event was also supported by Trastena Wines, Cosmos Coworking Camp, Vizh Sofia, TimeHeroes, Shipka Store.

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The Future hosted by the largest cathedral in the world

The Future at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC. Photo: Pavel Kounchev

The Future at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC. Photo: Pavel Kounchev

Our ongoing joint art project, The Future, with artists Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem, is among the 50 artworks featured at The Value of Sanctuary exhibition at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The work was commissioned by and created in collaboration with Fine Acts. It is a series of data-driven sculptures that illuminate critical human rights issues affecting people around the world. The artwork exhibited at the Cathedral examines the overall state of peace in the world.

The Future was a finalist in Fast Company’s premiere World Changing Ideas Awards in the Photography/Visualization category in 2017.

The Value of Sanctuary explores the question of sanctuary through the work of modern and contemporary artists, using the Cathedral’s sacred space as a canvas. The art pieces are dispersed throughout the building’s nooks and corners.

The exhibition will be running through to 30 June. More info here.

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Hello from TED Women

Hello from Palm Springs, home of TED Women – a fascinating three-day conference about the power of women and girls to be creators and change-makers.

We are here to support our awesome friend, collaborator and scientist extraordinaire Shohini Ghose, who gave a mind-blowing talk on the TED stage; as well as to get inspiration and support for our joint initiative, Curie’s Eleven – a unique project about women, science and art.

- Yana

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ACT Labs platform launch

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We’re proud to announce the launch of ACT Labs, our open platform promoting human rights innovation.

Labs are our unique events that explore the intersection of human rights, art and technology, and develop a range of solutions. We have run Labs on issues ranging from women’s rights, freedom of speech, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental protection, to the shrinking space for civil society.

In Labs, teams of artists and technologists work together over a weekend to prototype ideas that raise awareness or provide solutions for a specific social justice problem. The resulting ideas contribute to flipping the narrative on these issues.

Now we’re democratising the format so that anyone who wishes to explore this approach can do so. We provide the step-by-step guidelines and support on how to organize your own ACT Labs, and use technology and art for social change.

If you’re interested in organising an event in your city, see how at actlabs.co. You can apply to host our own ACT Labs on an issue of your choice or you can browse the many ideas already generated during past ACT Labs editions.

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Heading to Mexico to talk Aesthetic Warfare

We are heading to Mexico!

At the Human Rights Funders Annual Meeting our co-founder and Executive Director Yana Buhrer Tavanier will be talking about Aesthetic Warfare, giving a crash course on how images, interfaces, memes, games and maps are shaping the way we perceive and operate in reality, how this visual content is being manipulated and hacked to influence our behaviour and how we can use the same aesthetics as a weapon to fight back.

A big thank you to our advisory board member Arthur Steiner/Hivos for the invitation, and to the brilliant Nishant Shah and Gabriella Gómez-Mont for the collaboration. Stay tuned, as a new project is in the making.

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Project Light is on!

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We launched Project Light – a global art campaign for the right to sight, which we do in collaboration with Peek Vision. The campaign aims to increase public understanding, engagement and support for the right to sight. 36 million people in the world are blind, three quarters of them – from preventable or curable conditions.

We believe that everyone, everywhere, deserves access to good vision.

On 28 September, we opened in London a contemporary art exhibition called Shared Vision, which displays works across disciplines and mediums from sighted, partially-sighted and blind artists. el Seed, Rachel Gadsden, Sarah Sandman, Mark Haddon, and Sammy Baloji are among the renowned commissioned artists participating in Shared Vision.

Ultimately, over the next three years, our goal is to mobilise multiple contemporary artists from around the world, and tens of thousands of people, to contribute and push for change.

By raising global awareness, we aim to drive local action and influence policy makers to provide basic eye care for their citizens. Nobody should become or remain visually impaired when this can be prevented or cured.

Want to take action? See here how you can do this.

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Fine Acts at the 2018 Fundamental Rights Forum

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Fine Acts was invited to take part in the EU’s Fundamental Rights Forum, organized by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. Over three days, from 25 September, the forum opened its doors to over 600 participants. There were over 50 live sessions, five working groups, plenary panel debates, arts-related events, a virtual zone and sports activities.

Fine Acts’ Campaign Director Svetla Baeva took part in two panel discussions on the role of arts in human rights campaign work. She led and moderated the panel on the role of arts in elucidating issues and (re)shaping public perceptions. Panel participants included Andrea Kuhn, Director of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival, Elio Germani, photographer, Marina Satti, musician, and Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez, Vice-President of TernYpe.

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Jumping head first into the TED Residency

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Hey hey! I have been named a 2018 TED Resident and will be spending the rest of the year in the glorious TED office in NYC, researching human rights innovation, and giving a TED talk at the end. I am thrilled to be reuniting with my TED family (I am also a TED Senior Fellow and that will be my fourth talk on a TED stage – which doesn’t make it less exciting or nerve wracking though).

A big thank you to the TED Residency engines Katrina Conanan and Cyndi Stivers for embracing and supporting me. Look at the incredible group of people I will be joining!

- Yana

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Fine Acts Labs gathers disrupters from the CEE region

Illustration: Rozalina Burkova

Illustration: Rozalina Burkova

Our latest Labs edition took place in Sofia, Bulgaria (7-11 June 2018) and focused on the threats to democracy and civil rights in Europe, and the shrinking space for civil society in the region.

For this event, we selected 24 outstanding fellows from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania, out of over 130 applications. The focus on these countries is intentional as they are places in Europe where governments are increasingly cracking down on organisations that promote democracy and defend human rights.

The teams worked together for three days to generate new, concrete ideas to move the human rights agenda forward in the region and beyond.

They were supported by prominent human rights activists such as John Dalhuisen, former Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme, and Todor Gardos, Eastern Europe and Balkans Researcher at Human Rights Watch, as well as a number of leading marketing, campaigning, art and technology experts.

The winning team, Weronika Jurkiewicz and Michal Szota, both from Poland, proposed the creation of a board game where the goal is to “put yourself in the shoes of a dictator and suppress, take over, and shut down” as many civil society organizations as possible. The game will be produced by Fine Acts in collaboration with the team, and will launch in 2019.

See all project ideas here, which are open for use and adaptation!

See the full photo gallery from the event.

If you’re interested in organising an event in your city, see how at actlabs.co.

Fine Acts Labs (now ACT Labs) are unique events that explore the intersection of human rights, art and technology, and develop a range of solutions - from immersive, participatory art pieces to apps with a strong art component. By communicating human rights issues in new, unexpected ways, we seek new avenues to inspire action and attract support.

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Fine Acts co-founder awarded the inaugural Obama Scholarship

The President Barak Obama and the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

The President Barak Obama and the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University (our very own Pavel is third from the right).

Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University (our very own Pavel is third from the right).

We are so PROUD. Our co-founder Pavel Kounchev has been named one of the twelve inaugural Obama Scholars for his work inspiring civic engagement. It was an ultra-competitive thing, and he got it, and now will be spending the next year at Columbia University in New York, studying, collaborating and creating tangible solutions to real-world issues.

The first class of Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University features an accomplished group of 12 rising social change-makers from around the world. Consistent with the Obama Foundation’s mission to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation of civic leaders, the new, year-long academic program based at Columbia will strengthen the expertise and knowledge of individuals with the demonstrated ability to be transformative leaders in their communities, nations, and the world.

See highlights from Pavel’s first meeting with President Obama.

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