Otto Piene, Peace inflatables, Anti-war protest, Boston Common, 1969.
Otto Piene, Inflatables reading Peace, Pax, Pace, 1969.
Boston area students carry peace sign, 1969.
Sky writing, inflatables, and signs fill the air during the Boston Student Mobilization Committee anti-war protest October 15, 1969. This march was part of the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam protests. This day of protest, considered the first mass mobilization of the anti-war movement, spread across 200 cities with over two million people taking part.

A brief history of arts and activism at MIT

The Center for Advanced Visual Studies (1967-2010) hosted many artists who were involved in activism beginning with Otto Piene, whose youth spent as a conscripted soldier in Germany during WWII drove him to pioneer Sky Art as a way to reclaim the sky from the violence of war planes and bombs. Other artists including Juan Downey, Mel Chin, and Jenny Romaine came to the CAVS as fellows and research affiliates, continuing the legacy of activism in the center.

The legacy of these artists is upheld by current ACT students and faculty through their art, research, and performance.

“The blue sky had been a symbol of terror in the aerial war. It had meant flying weather, attacks by low-diving fighter planes and bombardments. . . We want to exhibit in the sky, not in order to establish there a new art world, but rather to enter new space peacefully—that is freely, playfully and actively, not as slaves of war technology.”

– Otto Piene, Artist’s statement, 1965.

The artists featured on the following pages are by no means an exhaustive list.