Abstract: Active matter describes out-of-equilibrium materials composed of motile building blocks that convert free energy into mechanical work. The continuous input of energy at the particle scale liberates these systems from the constraints of thermodynamic equilibrium, leading to emergent collective behaviors not found in passive materials. In this talk, I will describe our recent efforts to build simple active systems composed of purified proteins and identify generic emergent behaviors in active systems. I will first discuss two distinct activity-driven instabilities in suspensions of microtubules and molecular motors. Second, I will describe a new model system for polar fluid whose collective dynamics are driven by the non-equilibrium turnover of actin filaments. Our results illustrate how biomimetic materials can serve as a platform for studying non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, as well as shine light on the physical mechanisms that regulate self-organization in living matter.