Hold an Artistic Vigil

Through thoughtful symbolism, the right tone and a distinct look and feel an artistic vigil clearly conveys a specific message.

Like all rituals, a vigil should work at both the personal and political levels. It should offer a sacred experience for participants while effectively reaching out to nonparticipants. The more these two goals align, the more powerful the experience is for  participants and the greater the impact is on the broader public.


Families of deceased Samsung employees staged this Artistic Vigil for almost 3 years running. It was part of their campaign to demand compensation from the company for the deaths of their loved ones, attributed to toxic chemical exposures that occurred while assembling Samsung components and devices.

A memorial for deceased Samsung workers at the sit-in protest outside the company’s four towering skyscrapers in downtown Seoul, which started in October 2015 and ran for almost three years. (Sandra Bartlett/CBC)

“Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War” vigils were organized by the Artists’ Network of Refuse & Resist in New York City in the wake of 9/11People were asked to wear a dust mask (common in NYC after 9/11), dress all in black (common in NYC all the time), show up at Times Square at exactly 5 pm, and remain absolutely silent. Each participant held a sign that read: “Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War.” These vigils were silent and solemn, but there was a precision to the message that gave them a visceral potency in that emotionally raw time, for participants and observers alike.

“Our Grief is not a Cry for War” vigils organized by Artists’ Network of Refuse-Resist, New York City, 2001. Photo: Library of Congress