07/06/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Artists Unite Against the War on Drugs

The creation of art can be powerful tool for raising public awareness that can result in positive social and political change. Picasso, Diego Rivera, Goya and many others have used the canvas to paint bold political statements that affect the world.

Art as a social weapon has been around for a long time. In the early 1920s, Diego Rivera and the other Mexican muralists used their work as a tool for the oppressed against their oppressors. They expressed their opinions and got their message across to the literate and the illiterate alike and earned worldwide recognition. In April 1937, the world learned the shocking truth about the Nazi Luftwaffe's bombing of Guernica, Spain - a civilian target. Pablo Picasso responded with his great anti-war painting, Guernica.

In the '60s Leon Golub and his wife Nancy Spero put together the group Artists and Writers against the War as a response to the Vietnam war. On the other side of the coin, in 2003 the Drug Enforcement Agency opened an art exhibit in NYC titled "Terrorists, Traffickers, and You," that attempted to link terrorism to drug use.

Today 500,00 people are locked up behind bars because of the war on drugs. The U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- one American adult out of every 100 is currently behind bars. The United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population but close to 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. More than 750,000 Americans were arrested last year for simple marijuana possession. The drug war even targets sick and dying Americans, thousands of whom are regularly denied access to medical marijuana, a medication with proven medical benefits for the treatment of a wide range of serious illnesses.

On May 17, Sikkema Jenkins & Co. will host re:FORM a unique benefit art exhibit that hopes to enlighten others and help stop the madness of the war on drugs. Its creation is inspired by artists who have used art as a vehicle for social change.

For more info on this exhibit please go to