My Fellow Artists,
Calling all dancers, poets, actors, writers, singers, musicians, composers, photographers, visual artists and creatives! NOW is the time for artivism.
What is Artivism? Well, this is not a new concept. Artivism has been an effective tool in social change movements throughout history. There are books and articles already written on this topic, but I would like to simplify it:
Art + Activism = Artivism. Using the arts as a catalyst for social change.
Think about it. As artists, we have a special, powerful gift. We have the power to move people and touch their souls. There is a saying “Music speaks when words are not enough”. I believe this is true for all of the arts. I have seen grown men cry listening to a beautiful piece of music and I have seen the sternest of women laugh while watching a comedic play. We’ve all seen the power of the arts.
Some of us train for years, locking ourselves in practice rooms or artist studios for hours just to hone our crafts. What are we really doing? We are sharpening our emotionally-gutting, divide bridging tools for expression. And this is the time - this time right here - to use those tools.
ART IS EXPRESSION:
Art is expression-our personal expression. Artists are the bravest people on the planet. You have to be vulnerable to be an authentic artist, putting your heart and soul out for the world to receive. That’s why Erykah Badu famously said, “Now, keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit!”. Art pulls from the human experience. That is what makes it so special. Not only is art very personal, but it can connect two completely different people through the expression of a shared human experience.
Activism is also expression. I believe activists are also brave. These are people who are also “sensitive about their shit”, passionately marching through the streets, storming the legislature, or delivering fiery speeches to a crowd. That is also expression.
When we merge the two -art, the ultimate form of expression, and activism -we get a powerful combination.
AN ARTIST’S DUTY:
Many of us have heard the Nina Simone quote, “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times”. As artists, we have a gift, and that gift is a unique voice for expression. Whether it is painting, acting, singing or dancing , it is a tool that others do not have. If the world is falling down around us, don’t we have an obligation to use that tool to help? Many of us are already creating work that “reflects the times”. It is our creative outlet, not only for others, but most importantly for ourselves. When the country is in shambles, we need that release.
There are times that we don’t feel like singing a song about justice, or painting about racial inequality, or writing a play about sexism. Sometimes, we just feel like singing about blue skies, painting a vases of flowers, or writing plays about love. There is definitely a place for that art, as well. Bell Hooks says, ‘The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.’ So, I don't believe we need to be the emotional sleeves of every single cause, but I do think it is important for us to recognize our power. We are not powerless during this time. Quite the opposite - we can be "powerful beyond measure".
On this blog, American Artivist, I will be highlighting creatives from throughout the country who are using their art to make a difference. These will give you real life examples of how the arts can be used as effective tools in activism movements.
I am not only challenging you - I’m also challenging myself. I will be documenting my own journey of putting together artistic protests and art that truly "reflects the times'.
Carly P. Jones