“What art offers is space . . . a certain breathing room for the spirit.”
During the past 48 hours we have all been immersed in stories and images of violence, hate and tragedy. I found myself shockingly numb to the initial breaking news… these insane acts happen so frequently now, I felt my inner cynic taking over.
As I forced myself to listen further, absorbing the motivation behind the attack and the voices of the souls that were taken, my defensive and protective cynic was overtaken by sadness and shock. Many brilliant and impactful figures offered analysis, outrage and even hope through their powerful and artful words. I often look to such words to make sense of the nonsensical, to provide some light through the darkness. This time, those words felt like empty platitudes . . . haven’t we heard it all before? How horrific do things have to get before something changes? What can be done? Who is going to do it? Why do we bother even trying to live a good life?
As my mind spun out of control, my heart snuck in. Amid following the headlines and watching commentaries flood social media, I still had to do my job. And my job that dark morning was to read the piece submissions for TENSION, our 2015 show. Artivists from vastly different backgrounds, art disciplines and age groups submitted their ideas for performance pieces. They wrote their vision of how their piece would appear on stage, they shared how it related to the theme of tension, they listed the collaborators that would provide their own artistic ideas to the work. After 13 years of producing Artivist performances, I can confidently say that these were the most thoughtful and vulnerable collection of piece forms I have ever read. They presented lofty ideas, imagined incredible dreams of how they would put their artistic and personal selves out there on the stage, boldly and bravely.
This tableau of compelling and diverse piece descriptions emerged from all of us being in an empty dance studio together, brainstorming, sharing our experiences with tension and offering each other input and feedback.
The final section of the Piece Submission Form is “I’m an Artivist because . . .” This is the moment it all came together for me – this was the light amidst the brutal darkness. The question of “why” – why do we bother? In a world where hate and power rule and art is vastly undervalued, why do we continue creating and collaborating? Our courageous collective of Artivists gave me the answer and gave me hope for humanity once again:
I’m an Artivist because all it takes is one person to connect many. – Kim Ozlo
I’m an Artivist because it helps me understand and interact with the world around me. (and it helped my mom!) – Taage Dressel-Martin
I’m an Artivist because it is an opportunity to be courageous. – Leann Roberts
I’m an Artivist because playing is as important to life as breathing. – Karen Horan
I’m an Artivist because others’ creativity inspires my own creativity. I become an artist through that inspiration, the opportunity to work in community, and the permission to s-t-r-e-t-c-h into courage and exploration. – Jan Leversee
Art is not a magical solution to all of the world’s problems. It cannot erase generations of hate and violence. It cannot bring back the lives that were lost. It can provide “breathing room,” offer a space to express grief, process anxiety, rediscover hope and ultimately heal.
yours in Art and Action, with deep sorrow and immense gratitude,
Founder and Artistic Director