The 99% and the Arts

Posted by Robert Bettmann On May - 11 - 2012

Robert Bettmann

The arts are positively integrated into the Occupy Movement in several ways, but they are also a front on which activists are attacking the economic system.

While the arts field wrestles internally with issues of diversity and aging, attacks by Occupy activists are actually an affirmation of the relevance of the arts in civic life.

One Occupy LA blogger wrote, “if history has taught us anything…it’s that art is among the most honest and lasting of cultural indicators.” Occupy activists believe in the arts enough to fight for it.

The arts are a tool of the Occupy movement, an expression of the movement, a support in the movement, and also a target.

As a target, actions related to the arts are in some cities organized by an Occupy Museums working group. The Occupy Museums manifesto identifies that the group exists to “[call] out corruption and injustice in institutions of arts and culture” and their actions focus in two areas: labor issues and service to the one percent (generally).

The labor concerns relate to abrogation of union contracts and use of non-union labor at galleries and museums, and the broader concern relates to the question: to whom do the benefits of the cultural economy accrue? Read the rest of this entry »

‘You Can’t Evict an Idea Whose Time Has Come’

Posted by Caron Atlas On November - 23 - 2011

Caron Atlas

At the recent Policy Link Equity Summit 2011 in Detroit at a session called “Holding Ground,” progressive presenters—including Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor, who participated in the “driving filibuster” to prevent the dismantling of collective bargaining, spoke about maintaining equity in a time a cutbacks.

At the end of the session one of the younger audience members, Michael Collins, asked where in all this talk of holding ground were the progressive ideas, the vision for the future. His question significantly shifted the room.

The conference had begun with Grace Lee Boggs inspiring us to seize this moment to “create something new.” Artists Invincible and Rha Goddess later spoke about shifting the culture and did just that as they performed, bringing economic injustice home. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) organizer Nelini Stamp noted that Occidental professor Peter Dreir has researched a three-fold increase in the word “inequality” in the media since OWS began. She then asked us to “think big”.

This post is supposed to be about placemaking. But right now I’m thinking about holding ground and thinking big. OWS’s place at Zuccotti Park has just been bulldozed. At Policy Link and other conferences I have been to this fall I have found many organizers embracing the energy around the 99%. Read the rest of this entry »

Embracing the Velocity of Change (Part 5)

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon On November - 1 - 2011

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

Our Paradox, Now Available on YouTube!

With bold headlines generated by the release of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy report Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change, the appetite was high at the Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) Conference for an opportunity to address the charge of being elite so often leveled at the arts. Do we want to own it or change it? And, what about the progressive label? Don’t artists generally lean left?

The session “Too Progressive, Too Elite: Public Value and the Paradox of the Arts” turned out to be that opportunity. Marete Wester, my colleague and director of arts policy at Americans for the Arts, and I organized the session based on our own interests in exploring the truths and challenges inherent in these labels–but we wanted a fresh conversation. So, why not start with art!? After all, connecting art and dialogue has been Animating Democracy’s cause and mantra for over ten years. GIA’s own Tommer Peterson signed on and spent the summer conducting 45 interviews on the theme.

A Night at the Opera, a short play by Tommer and KJ Sanchez of American Records Theater Company, was performed to open the salon session held at Emerald Tablet, a community arts center in San Francisco’s historic North Beach neighborhood.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Art Inside #OccupyWallStreet

Posted by Amanda Alef On October - 31 - 2011

The art of signs used at #OWS (photo from hyperallergic.com)

Throughout history art has been fundamentally intertwined with social movements and political activism and it continually serves as a critical avenue through which to question, comment on, and influence change in the world around it. And this time around is no exception.

While the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to gain momentum, the arts have become a unique tool in the movement’s development and have played a central role in the creative expression of the movement’s message.

On any given day the artistic pulse of the movement can be witnessed through the countless cardboard signs on display throughout downtown Manhattan’s Zuccoti Park, as well as the emergence of a screenprinting lab, daily open stage performances, and the constant presence of musicians who add song to the movement’s message.

Only fourteen days after protesters began occupying, the formation of the Arts and Culture Committee emerged as a subcommittee of the movement’s general assembly. This collection of painters, graphic designers, musicians, art students, and more, represents the creative voices of the movement and have been working to support the peaceful occupation of Liberty Square and to foster participation in the creation of cultural work that amplifies the movement’s message. Read the rest of this entry »