The arts live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their nature and their shapes and their uses survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; they outlive governments and creeds and societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find again when the ruins are cleared away.
—Katherine Anne Porter
I’ve spent most of the past week off line. At first, I followed my normal course of action when the results of the election became clear: I went online to research the election outcome and attempted to come up with a rationale for why the world is the way it is. This time, my pursuit for answers through social media and online searches only left me feeling hollow inside. The following video pretty much sums up how I have felt for this past week.
Offline, I attempted to make sense of our country by seeking out discussions with friends & family while simultaneously diving into literature about the state of our world. At this point, the one thing I know for sure is that this country has a lot of work to do.
Artists have an important voice in this country and I fear that we have allowed ourselves to sit on the margins for far too long. Lack of arts exposure for large parts of the country while we simultaneously live in an artistic bubble is part of the reason we find ourselves in the position we’re in today. The arts have the ability to bring beauty, context, critical thinking, and diverse thought to an otherwise mundane world and it’s time to start thinking about ways we can positively influence the state of this country.
I am inherently a person who thrives on action. For those of you trying to figure out what to do next, here are five action steps artists can take today to make a positive change in this country:
- Get out of your echo chamber. Making great art with other like minded artists often reinforces our view of the world. Getting out there to better understand how non-artists and people with opposing viewpoints see the world has the power to make our art even better. Some of you may be thinking about ignoring those who see the world differently than you. Don’t do it.Challenge: Gather a group of friends, choose a hot button topic and debate the issue. Use some of that compassion you have been given as an artist to look at the world through those with opposing viewpoints eyes. Read, ask questions, and really listen. While we may not see eye to eye on some of the most pressing issues of our time, my guess is that our worlds are not that far apart.
- Question the “news” you read on social media. While most people feel that artificial intelligence is still decades away, in a twisted way, we’re further along than we think. Social media has become our one stop shop for understanding the world and with it has gone any deep exploration and contemplation of the issues at hand. Instead of objectively looking at the issues, we are letting articles like this shape our opinions, often without any sources to back up the information.Challenge: Find another trusted source for information besides social media. I like a news sources like Reuters, who attempt to remain neutral with the information they push out. When you see someone post something that isn’t based in fact, instead of attacking them, ask questions and try to share your point of view on the subject.
- Support great art. I’m going to ask a hard question of all you artists out there. How many of you have paid to attend an artistic event in the past month or even the past six months? My guess is that the percentage of those of you answering yes would be quite low. One of the fallouts behind our reliance upon the internet is that we no longer go to see and hear great art. The Arts need artists like you more than ever before to be patrons, so get out there and find some beauty in the world.Challenge: Buy a ticket to see great art this week. Besides the real benefit it has on arts organizations, seeing the performing arts live is an amazing way to reflect, digest, and move beyond the results of the election.
- Write to your government officials. Your political leaders need to hear from you. It turns out that artists play an incredibly important role in the vibrancy of our country, states, cities, and neighborhoods and your voice needs to be heard.Challenge:
- We have seen what the first 100 days may look like under a Trump presidency. Look at all of the issues and create your own platform from the perspective of an artist, filled with the things that are most important to you.
- Know who your leaders are at every level of government, know their platforms, and write to them with your thoughts. Ask how you can help. Artists are often incredible organizers (it’s kind of what we do) so you may be in a position to support your leader, or act in opposition to a policy they support. Note: Actually sit down and write a letter. Politicians rarely get well thought out letters from their constituents. Take a moment to get your thoughts down on paper and take civic pride in sending something along.
- Make great art. For those of you who are not certain about what you can do as an artist in this environment, the answer is simple: Make great art. Show others what beauty is and share it with the world.
- Give a performance for performance sake. Invite your friends and let them know that experiencing great art is a great way to reflect about the issues facing this country.
- Find an advocacy group that supports an issue you feel is important and ask them to speak on behalf of their organization during your performance. You’ll get two diverse audiences in the room at once to hear great art.
The Arts will live beyond the problems of today. Now more than ever, lean on your art for inspiration, contemplation, and action. I need it. You need it. The world needs it.
How will you make a change in this world? In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing ways that I intend to make change and I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts below.