Tom was an artist and peace activist who was arrested many times and went to prison for his anti-war beliefs. Primarily noted for his part in the Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine, Lewis was also active in the Civil Rights Movement as a member of CORE, as well as the Catholic Worker Movement and the Prince of Peace Plowshares.
Lewis was a memorable figure in the “radical Catholic” movement for his fusion of art and activism. His art was remembered by Daniel Berrigan as “a poignant and powerful witness to the survival of the endangered conscience…. He heals the ancient split between ethics and imagination.”
Lewis was a well-known artist throughout the Worcester area, and many of his pieces still survive in galleries and archives throughout the USA. He was an art teacher at Anna Maria College, and he taught printmaking at the Cambridge School of Weston, and Worcester Art Museum.
The story of Tom Lewis is a timely one. Today’s renewed public consciousness around-and demands for- a society free of economic and racial iniquities, that serves and provides for all, provides the backdrop for our story. An artist activist associated with the Catholic Workers Movement, a radical left group founded amidst the mass public suffering of the Great Depression and politically shaped at the intersection of anarcho-Communism and those Catholic tenets related to poverty,
Tom Lewis models the powerful role art plays as a form of activism and in staged protests. His example takes a long view on how to act in small and big ways, and how to be unafraid of the risks of direct action; this model is one of sustained and committed activism towards a clear vision of a better world. His lifelong commitment to peace, to fighting war, social, and racial injustice with this undeterred focus on the impacts of poverty and the poor as portrait-worthy, challenges us to consider both the politics which form the basis of our fight against injustices and to consider the importance of the arts in our politics.
Further, the role of the Catholic Worker Movement in this story highlights the problematic marriage of the Christian right with pro-Capitalist politics, and provides a counterpoint to the Christian conservatism gripping the U.S. today.