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How Wide Is the Eye of the Needle? Exploring the Intersection of Art and Impact

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“The Water Inequality in Kenya” team at the Stories of Change Lab (L-R) Pauline Nyota, Judy Kibinge, Steve Metcalfe, and Emily Wanja. © 2018 Sundance Institute | Photo by Brandon Cruz

Sundance Institute

In October, the Stories of Change Lab convened a select group of independent storytellers and social entrepreneurs supported by the Skoll Foundation. The goal of the lab is to nurture collaboration among artists and changemakers in ways that protect the artists’ autonomy and can meet the social impact goals of the social entrepreneurs. Is this a narrow needle to thread? To examine this question, we asked the project team working on Water Inequality in Kenya, a short film at the lab, to share their thoughts on the intersection of art and impact in 50 words or less.


Judy Kibinge, Director, Water Inequality in Kenya

“Art speaks in a way that isn’t logical—it’s emotional; personal. Artistic images, sequences, and sounds connect with us in ways that speak intimately to us in a language that is interpreted afresh by the individual eyes or ears it falls upon. Thus we are deeply impacted because we feel we truly ‘own’ what we have experienced.”

Steve Metcalfe, Head of Communications, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

“Many artists would argue that all art creates impact; but what I took away from the lab was that whilst emotional impact might be what many filmmakers aim for, films can also go on to create social impact—and this possibility can be increased through careful partnership with a non-profit organization.”

Pauline Nyota, Project Officer (Social), Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

“The intersection lies in being able to tell your story in such a simple but powerful way, that your audience lives it (the art) and are incited to act accordingly (impact) all without you being in their face about it.”

Emily Wanja, Producer, Water Inequality in Kenya

“Art puts a face to an issue. It’s like it personifies what’s sometimes a complex topic and so when you watch you feel something. It’s like art gives that emotional connection that will often make the person watching want to do something about the issue at hand.”

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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