Sunday, July 10, 2011

Artists as World Leaders

In response to my blog posts of the last couple of days, I received this essay from Dawn Flores, a very powerful dance teacher, artist, creative woman.  I love it!  It was apparently written in 1981 at a conference on creativity and the oppression that artists experience in doing their work.

Artists as World Leaders
"Everyone is continually creative in infinite ways in their lives, but we who have chosen to dedicate parts of our lives to our creative work as artists have particular joys and difficulties to face.  The works of artists shine forth as some of the most magnificent achievements of humanity.  Artists are, however, viciously oppressed economically and in other ways, battling numerous “harmful stereotypes, damaging competition which deeps us apart, tremendous financial insecurity in most cases (or giving up altogether on being paid for what we do), and constant devaluation of our work. 

Artists have always been, are now, and will continue to be in the vanguard of social change.  We constantly have the choice, and need to be encouraged if so inclined, to see ourselves as leaders in the world, putting our and using our art as a tool for humanity’s re-emergence.  We can choose whether to be client or counselor to our audience.  We can create opportunities to do, display, perform, publish our work; systems of financial and emotional support; opportunities to grow and lead and learn from other artists.

It is important for people outside our oppression to listen thoroughly to how tough (as well as good) it has been for us as artists, and constantly hold out to us the vision of our full possibilities.  We need to see and be treated as people first, artists second.  We are under tremendous pressure to stay productive, and we, ourselves, need to be validated, as well as our work.  Don’t ask immediately “what are you doing next?” Expect change and growth in our work, and be aware when commenting on it.  Probably every artist has a frozen need for ravenous praise and applause, and at the same time, hungers for an honest response, even if negative.  Remember that art works are marvelously complex things to be thought about and measured in many, many more ways that the rigid yardstick—”Is it good?”.  Also, though we have slack in the area of creativity and are happy to encourage people, think twice before telling us (with a sigh) how you always wished you could play guitar.  It makes us feel separate and tends to reinforce the artist as superhuman/weirdo stereotype.

We are workers.  We are usually highly skilled and low paid.  Art is not a magically delivered talent that comes automatically: we have to learn what we do.  RC learning theory applies to our skills as well.  It is not a privilege to do art; it is our job (even if we have other work).  We do it because we love it and because we must work.  No one who has a challenging, creative job should be considered lucky—we all have that right.

Art is powerful.  Single songs have fired whole movements (The Marseillaise, The Internationale, We Shall Overcome).  Single works have brought into focus whole cultures and historical periods (the poems of Sappho, the Easter Island statues, Guernica).  The ability to create art has made large differences for individuals and communities.  In the context of social change, this power could be tapped much more fully.  The capitalist establishment uses art very knowledgeably towards its goals—and if art can sell toothpaste, why not socialism?  As we artists become interested in world changing, it is important to remember to use what we do best; it isn’t necessary to click envelopes for our favorite world change group when we can use our art to further our world goals.  At the same time we are not in political groups as transmitter of policy created by others—the artist as megaphone.  We are are own thinkers.  We need not do only our art.  We are fine human beings in every way and we shap our lives and environments as we see fit.

Finally, there is a great power in this fact: we are, most of us, doing the work we love best.  That can make us profoundly effective—acting on our best thinking, where our heart lies."

Report of the Artists as World Leader Support Group
Nuit, Marty P., Ed Rejuney, Roger Rosen, Vicky Rovere, Jesse Tassencourt, Cathy Winter
As Wide World Changing Workshop III, November, 1981

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