Next week marks a shorter work week for some of us, a chance to take a break from the breakneck pace of these past few years. For the fortunate amongst us, the Thanksgiving holiday is a chance to gather with family and friends, to break bread together and reflect on the ways our lives are blessed. To share our gratitude and give thanks.
Like the times we are in, the holiday also holds great contradictions. A remembrance of stolen lands, stolen lives, broken promises. An awareness of how many of our neighbors are unhoused or hungry. Grief for those alone and lonely, those outside the circles of care, those claimed by the epidemics of COVID-19, gun violence, political violence, police violence, suicide, overdose, and poverty.
The best way I know how to hold these griefs, to stand in the contradictions of our times, is through art. Through bringing art into our activism and activism into our art we can find meaning and sustenance to feed our aspirations and continued resistance to all that wears us down.
Artists may be the best negotiators of our democracy. It is through art that we can reconnect with each other. The arts may be the last place where we can come together to understand who we are as a country.
So to feed you over the coming days dedicated to gratitude, we’re serving up the work of our Common Good Masterclass for Artists & Culture Workers.
These offerings were part of the Artists Gallery featured in our recent conference, Activists Mobilizing for Power (AMP). Amy Herzfeld-Copple, our Deputy Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives, says, “It was really gratifying to infuse joy, music, and art in last month’s virtual AMP by showcasing the amazing work and voices of artists and culture makers from our recent Masterclass for Artists and Cultural Workers, as well as several of the Americana singer/songwriters we’ve engaged in our ongoing Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab.”
Having attended Western States Center conferences since she was a 21-year-old human rights organizer in Boise, Amy sees arts and culture content as “both a powerful tool for organizing and narrative, and a creative outlet for shared joy in challenging political conditions.”
As artists and cultural workers rise to the challenges our democracy faces, Western States Center developed its Common Good Masterclass for Artists and Cultural Workers: Combatting Racism, Antisemitism, and Antidemocratic Movements. Last fall, we launched our first class with 20 multimedia artists across the Northwest and country to deepen the analysis and relationships needed to counter hateful ideologies and envision a common good politics through their art. The art they created as a result of this class is featured in the following virtual gallery. Enjoy!
To see the artists’ gallery, click here or on the image below:
I wish you some moments of leisure this coming week, of relaxation and restoration and connection. Breaks are vitally important in the long arc of our work. Feed your soul. Feed your spirit. We have some hard days ahead. The movement for inclusive democracy needs you. We are so grateful to you and to all the artists who lift us up.
Eric K. Ward is a Senior Fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Race Forward and Executive Director of Western States Center.
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