French artist JR believes the answer is yes. For years, he has been using art to bring attention to contemporary issues and to make marginalized communities visible.
In March 2022, JR traveled to Ukraine to bring attention to women and children trying to escape the war-torn country. He and a team of volunteers unfurled a 148-foot-long photograph of a 5-year-old Ukrainian girl. JR’s friend and fellow artist Artem Iurchenko photographed the girl, named Valeriia, as she was crcossing the border into Poland with her mother, Taisiia.
“This little girl is the future, and, in this war, she reminds us what Ukrainians are fighting for,” JR explained.
JR knew he could use his international audience to get help for women and children like Taisiia and Valeriia. So as his team unfurled the larger-thanlife photograph, the artist used a drone to photograph it and capture it on video from above. He quickly made the photograph and video available for sale on his website, and he donated all the proceeds to support refugees at Ukrainian border crossings.
The project gained so much attention that it made the cover of TIME magazine. During a video chat, JR told Valeriia, “Your smile is shining to the entire world.”