Monday, January 3, 2011

Economic Development: The New Civil Rights Movement with Artists as Leaders

Hollis Chatelain, Precious Water, 2004
Art gives voice to the voiceless. Meaningful art leads to introspection and action. It raises awareness and challenges the norm.  Some art shocks us to attention while other artworks slowly ease us into action.  Art quilter, Hollis Chatelain, uses her talent to bring attention to international issues - particularly environmental. Her whole cloth painted quilts draw me into the plight of families struggling to meet basic needs due to things like inadequate water supply or deforestation.

Her work makes me think about families in my own community struggling to survive.  Their struggles result from a lack of quality jobs paying a wage that sufficiently covers rent, utilities, food, and clothing.  An underfunded and under-performing public education system only adds to their problems.   What is a family to do when the education system that was meant to prepare their members to compete in a global economy drastically fails them?  Organizations like the Chicago Urban League, the Rainbow Push Coalition, and the National Action Network have embraced economic development and quality education as the leading issues of underrepresented communities. 

What can artist do to draw attention to these very important issues?   Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan were just a few of the great artists whose protest songs raised the consciousness of America in the 1960's and 70's.  In the 1930's, F. D. Roosevelt's New Deal included a Cultural Arts Project.  It employed thousands of visual artists, musicians, theater performers, and writers.  Our nation's families, schools, and public spaces were forever impacted by this infusion of culture into American society.  How can artist today take a stand to persuade our nation to embrace the arts as a viable avenue for economic growth?  What can we do to prepare ourselves to be leaders of the movement promoting the business of art?

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