May, 2017 — Blog Post for Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, expanding the mission of the art space ARTspeaks.
What do you believe? We throw big questions at our kids all the time, let’s challenge the slogans, mess with the easy perceptions. But as adults, I think we tend to self-select our ‘big questions,’ in the same way we choose our news or tend toward a musical status quo. Let’s talk about the belief I know.
When we opened ARTspeaks in January I thought we had pretty substantial goals – to increase the number of artistic voices on campus, support local artists and art organizations and to use the space as outreach—a neutral space for discussion of complex themes. I think we’re doing well just four months in but I think it’s increasingly clear that we have to expect more from the space, from our mission, and from our members to succeed. If we are just pretty pictures on a wall, we have failed
ART speaks. The simple act of putting work on the wall gives it importance, underscores whatever language it uses. Further, we ask our artists to help us understand their work, their intent. We have an extraordinary opportunity to reach out, asking for views, perspectives, experiences, for beliefs other than our own. What could we hear, learn, if we searched for art that spoke to our beliefs in uncomfortable ways? What might we all of a sudden not know.
Here’s the heresy — We need to find voices to challenge us in multiple directions. Yes, we need to find voices to challenge us to be more inclusive, to understand privilege and marginalization, to lean into our core beliefs with intent. But ARTspeaks is an opportunity to understand the span between liberal and conservative, to stop believing so completely and hear each other. What drove people to their political choices over the past year. Millions of people have reasons for believing so passionately about one issue that they were willing to overlook a multitude of ills, on both sides. Why? Let’s find out.
ARTspeaks isn’t just a physical space or a program. It’s a statement Art has a place in the discussion of who we are. It can reach into communities and to individuals we would never know otherwise—people we need to hear, as clearly as we want them to hear us. And, it’s a dare. Art speaks. May we have the courage to listen, to hear, to shake off our complacency and take action.
We’re way past pretty pictures on the wall.
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