Guide to social change filled with plans and insights

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The Creative Instigator’s Handbook will help you create good problems with art.

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Leanne Prain wants to inspire and teach people how to become artistic troublemakers.

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The Vancouver author, speaker and activist’s new book, The Creative Instigator’s Handbook, is a colorful guide that shines a light on people who are already using art for activism while laying out the steps for readers to begin their own journey towards social change.

“My books have always been lightly political, and I think this book is along the same lines,” Prain, who has written three other titles, said in a recent phone conversation. “I just want to encourage people to express themselves.”

In the book, Prain delivers conversations with 23 “artistic troublemakers” from around the world.

The art/activism in The Creative Instigator’s Handbook ranges from grassroots like Vancouver poet Kevin Spenst giving readings on sidewalks, in parks and building doorways to large-scale funded works like the Incredible Projects of participatory public art by internationally acclaimed British artist Luke Jerram.

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The mediums highlighted in the book are also broad and accessible, and adoptable as ideas. There is a protest banner lending library created by Aram Han Sifuentes of Chicago. The Tiny p—ks project curated by Diane Weymour captured Donald J. Trump’s “weird and hurtful words” in embroidery.

Closer to home, you can learn from Vancouver’s Chris Bentzen and Jim Hoehnle, who curated the popular and affordable art exhibit Hot Once Inch Action, and find out how Melissa Higgs managed to create the cool urban alley space. Alley-Oop.

“I wanted to intentionally show that you can be involved in art in any way,” said Prain, when asked about the diversity of the collection of creations in her book.

Alongside the artist/activist’s Q&A are accessible instructions – write them down before you forget – that clearly lay out a path forward for those who want to creatively connect and make changes, whether they are big or small.

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“What I’ve tried to do through the book is walk people through the process of…just getting in touch with what they’re doing and what interests them,” Prain said, who also works in marketing and communications.

Prain made a name for herself over a decade ago when she led the Yarn Bombing movement and co-authored the book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.

“She aims for progressive social change through a wide range of media and projects that are fresh and compelling,” said Robert Ballantyne, associate editor at Prain’s publisher Arsenal Pulp Press.

Prain hopes her new manual will inspire and encourage others to embrace social change in their daily lives. Above all, she hopes that it can be a gateway into the world of activism for the younger generations.

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“My readers are of all ages, but I would say I hope there’s a 15-year-old in a small town who might be feeling very disconnected from what they want to do, and this book is the permission to rally friends and family to start something together and talk about things that are very important to them,” Prain said.

Leanne Prain, artist, speaker and author of new book The Creative Instigator's Handbook, hopes the book will find its way into the hands of a teenager in a small town somewhere and inspire them to gather friends and family and start something together.
Leanne Prain, artist, speaker and author of new book The Creative Instigator’s Handbook, hopes the book will find its way into the hands of a teenager in a small town somewhere and inspire them to gather friends and family and start something together. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Ultimately, the message of the creative instigator’s handbook is a treasure trove of ideas, big and small. Ideas you can replicate or reinvent in your own way, but whatever you decide, Prain wants you to start.

“I hope what people take away is that they are capable of making more changes in the world around them than they probably realize,” Prain said. “If they’re waiting for permission to launch some kind of crazy idea, they don’t have to wait any longer, they should just go ahead and do it. Because we talk a lot about experimentation and learning.

“Nobody does anything perfectly, but I think the most important thing is just to start.”

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