Impacts of Creative Works on Culture

Impacts of Creative Works on Culture

How Creative Works Shape Cultural Values and Influence Cultural Change

In the comedy film School of Rock, an aspiring guitarist pretending to be a substitute teacher just to earn money repeatedly tells his students, “One great rock show can change the world” (Linklater, 2003). The young students in the elite prep school where he teaches have focused only on academic achievement, so they struggle to understand what this means. After the class wins a Battle of the Bands contest, the kids, their parents, and their school principal realize how playing music together has transformed them. The emphasis in the film is on the teacher and students as creators. Their creative choices about every aspect of the performance, from vocals to music to costumes, have a huge impact on the parents in the audience, who recognize the children’s talent and passion. The kids take the opportunity to perform in a band to assert their own interests as individuals and as creators. Their actions change the school culture to value creative expression over rigid conformity. So, maybe a great rock show truly did change their world.

As a comedy, School of Rock makes the process of inspiring creativity to change cultural values fun to watch. In an era in which funding cuts reduce arts in schools, the message about the importance of the arts is one that school boards making budget decisions should seriously consider. The film inspired the creation of a global music school franchise of the same name that follows the same principles for teaching music. The movie was later adapted into a Broadway musical, so it continues to spread its message of the value of being a creator.

Bursts of color explode around a drum set and guitars.

An artist’s work may influence cultural change, even if that was not their original purpose. An example of this happening is the effect of the Beatles, a band that is considered by most to have changed rock and roll. When John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr arrived in the United States from Britain in 1964 for a television appearance and tour, they became a global phenomenon. The “Fab Four,” as they were soon dubbed by the media, bridged the gap between American and British music. The way rock and roll sounded before the Beatles and after the Beatles was wildly different. A lot of that change came through their experimentation with sound in a way that had not been done before. When they stopped touring in 1966, the band shifted to studio recording, exploring what they could do with lyrics and instrumentation. The rock bands that came afterward expanded what the Beatles had begun. What started as a teenybopper pop band evolved into a group of four musical innovators whose presence on the global music scene generated cultural change. Through their album covers, movies, and even cartoons, the Beatles influenced how music was marketed and distributed. As the band members developed their own interests, both musically and culturally, John Lennon and George Harrison moved into pursuing social causes associated with the peace movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Artists may view themselves as activists whose purpose is social change. Songs have become anthems for social movements in the United States, such as “We Shall Overcome,” adapted by Pete Seeger from a gospel song and a hymn by Reverend Charles Albert Tindley and sung by Joan Baez and others. Other songs were meant to create awareness of social issues like racism, poverty, police brutality, veteran’s rights, and the environment, such as the songs on Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Goin’ On. Songs by reggae artist Bob Marley may give the feeling of a carefree lifestyle, but these were actually protest songs about discrimination and oppression in his native Jamaica. Songs have been written and performed as protests around the world for decades, such as South African artist Miriam Makeba’s songs against apartheid in the 1960s to Lloyiso Gijana’s 2020 song against gender-based violence.

Remember that the term the arts refers to visual art, performing art, and literature. Any of the creative works within these subject areas of the humanities can influence cultural change. In the book A People’s Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements (2013), activist artist Nicolas Lampert describes artists advocating for issues ranging from workers’ rights to AIDS awareness. One work of public art featured in this book is the sculpture Danzas Indigenas by Judith Baca. In 1994, the sculpture was created to look like an arch from a Spanish mission and a train platform with quotations that represent the multicultural community of Baldwin, near Los Angeles.

The sculpture "Danzas Indigenas" by Judith Baca

Judy Baca. (1994). Danzas Indigenas.

In 2005, an anti-immigration group staged a protest in reaction to two of the quotations and demanded the sculpture be removed. However, city residents joined together for a nonviolent counterprotest. Baca then created a digital mural for the counterprotest to support the inclusive meaning of the sculpture. A statement by the local arts committee sums up the activist artist viewpoint:

They will offer cynicism and we will offer ceremony. They will raise criticism and we will raise culture. They will condemn art and we will simply make more of it. They will paint a picture of weakness and we will celebrate our strength, for in the end, the law protects us, our creativity defines us, and we have already won. Ours is a defiance of spirit; our weapon is sound, color, word, and song. (as cited in Lampert, 2013)

In these examples, the subject of a creator’s work has had an influence on cultural change. The creators’ efforts in making art can also represent a cultural change. For instance, the Right of Return Fellowship is an organization whose mission is to empower incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals to “change the narrative through art” and position “artists as changemakers” (Right of Return, n.d.) in order to influence policy decisions on mass incarceration. These artists include filmmakers, visual artists, writers, and musicians.

Actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976) is quoted as saying, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice” (PBS, 2022). When creators’ works represent the social concerns of the time, the message of these works can influence and shape the values of a culture.


Baca, J. (n.d.).

Lampert, N. (2013). Art defends art. In A people’s art history of the United States: 250 years of activist art and artists working in social justice movements. The New Press.

Linklater, R. (Director). (2003). School of rock. [Film]. Paramount Pictures.

PBS. (2022, March 30). Paul Robeson quotes on art and protest

Right of Return USA Fellowship. (n.d.).

Answer preview for Impacts of Creative Works on Culture


310 Words

Open chat
Contact us here via WhatsApp