If Artists were in charge, would we have this problem?

This is not the America I want for my kids. 

The events that unfolded on Wednesday were some of the worst things I’ve seen in my life. 

While the majority of us celebrate the fair and legal victory of President-Elect Biden, it’s difficult not to feel completely lost and saddened by the actions of many in our country. 

If Artists were in charge, we wouldn’t have this problem. 


  • Know how to give voice to the less fortunate because our profession makes us humanists.
  • Have the innate ability to listen and learn before speaking because great art involves reflection and contemplation. 
  • Make every decision through the lens of empathy because we can put ourselves in the shoes of the marginalized.

Artists aren’t in charge (yet), but we can still use our strengths as a force for good because artists are also great community builders. 

Here are five steps you can use to build community as an artist: 

  1. Control what you can control — Let go of things happening beyond your control—like angry mobs storming the capital—and focus on something you can tangibly address.

    Tip: Instead of trying to solve the problem of our national politics, try to tackle the most immediate problem in your local community. Too often, we get stuck trying to make big, sweeping changes on a national scale when there is a ton of work to do outside our back door. 


  2. Embrace micro movements — Author SARK defines a micro movement as “a very tiny action, 5 seconds to 5 minutes in length, that you can do to take action toward achieving a creative dream.”

    Tip: Do something small and take action to build community today. Write your elected officials, send a quick note of solidarity to your friends, or simply meditate for 5-minutes to help you develop an action plan. 


  3. Show Up — In order to build community, you have to be willing to physically and mentally show up in a place and commit to serving a cause that is way bigger than you. There are a multitude of services options in your community and your job is to pick one (only one) cause and dive in.

    Tip: Take some time to explore the different community building organizations that inspire you. There are likely local, regional, national and international organizations that serve each cause, so you want to figure out what feels right. 


  4. Listen — During the exploratory phase of your work, you have one job. Listen. Listen to the community members who passionately lead the movement, listen to those individuals in the community, and research the organizations.

    Tip: This is not about you. This is about how you fit into the organization on a personal/philosophical level. 


  5. Stay — When you make a commitment, keep it. Community organizations are reticent to having volunteers because they come and go so quickly. This makes it difficult for organizations to rely on individuals wishing to give their time.

    Tip: When you make the decision to serve, put in writing how much you intend to serve via email. Giving a specific timeline and commitment amount allows you and the service provider to think about how to engage you in the work. 

Take these steps today to engage with your community. You may not be able to stop the storming of our Capitol, but you can still make a difference in this world!

Photo by Jorge Alcala on Unsplash

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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