This project is supported by funding from a Middlebury College Community Engagement Mini-Grant.
In order to better understand different ways artists have tackled social justice issues from the upcoming November elections in the US to the crisis in South Sudan, I attended a conference in Washington D.C. organized by the non-profit, Creative Time. Through a series of lectures, performances and panels, I was able to meet and listen to such a diverse range of people tackling the various problems in our world with vivid imagination.
Vaginal Davis was one of the most memorable performances that I saw where instead of explaining their work through a lecture. They did a performance piece which spoke volumes more. It really reminded me of how the conventional format of a conference could be subverted and that other means of expression were just as valid. Anna Hutsol, author of the women’s movement in Ukraine FEMEN was also really inspiring. Instructing women to protest topless in the face of injustice was something I had never seen before and even though I was prepared to witness and listen to pretty absurd ideas, the courage of this simple action was so provocative and inspiring that it really made me rethink how vulnerable people are willing to be in putting their bodies on the line.
From listening to co-founder Alicia Garza from #BlackLivesMatter to Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih countless people amazed me over the three days. I eventually found myself at a discussion panel on the intersections of art and science and with the director of the National Academy of Sciences advocate for the Arts and Humanities in addition to STEM felt like these two worlds that I have been wrestling to be seen as more fluid between each other were finally coming together. Going to this conference gave me more motivation to use the imagination and play that art can activate in advocating for issues that I care about and with this experience, I hope that I too can show others on campus how powerful the arts can be.
You can check out more about the speakers who were at the event at this link below: