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The Art of Social Change

This Friday, begins the two-day Arts and Social Change Symposium, which I blogged about in August. I will be participating on the panel for their Friday afternoon workshop titled Arts Education & Racial Justice, from 1:30 to 3:30 PM. I will be joined on the panel by Roberto Ascalon, Lara Davis, Tina LaPadula, and Sean O’Neill of Arts Corps.

All of the Symposium’s events take place in the Northwest Rooms or the Playhouse/Intiman Theatre at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison Street in Seattle.

Artists paint to advocate preserving the Pike Place Market, 1975.

If you doubt art can affect social change, I suggest you familiarize yourself with Arts Corps. It is a great example of a Seattle arts organization that works to improve society through its mission of arts education. It cites research that repeatedly demonstrates the importance of arts learning to human development (see my related blog, here). Arts education can foster creative thinking, engage diverse learners and establish and strengthen connections between people and ideas.

Arts Corps takes this a step further by placing professional teaching artists at  residential treatment centers and low income housing developments, in addition to schools. It brings to these young people the equitable arts learning opportunities they otherwise would not receive.

And Arts Corps is improving itself, as well.

Founded and managed by educated white adults, Arts Corps acknowledges that white dominant culture limits the voice and influence people of color might otherwise contribute to decision-making by organizations and institutions that affect their lives. Arts Corps realizes that beyond diversifying their faculty, staff and board, they need to understand their actions and utilize racial justice tools that will allow them to more effectively work with a variety of cultures.

Another Seattle arts organization that works to improve society is Urban Artworks. It employs, trains and mentors groups of at-risk and adjudicated youth ages 14-18 through the creation of public art murals. They also volunteer youth and adults in the creation of public art. Through pre-employment training and subsidized employment, their programs foster self-esteem, self-motivation and self-sufficiency while gaining real-world skills that prepare them for the future. Urban Artworks has served over 5,000 youth since 1995.

There are two other Symposium events that look inviting. Friday’s Grantmaking from a Social Justice Framework: Cultural Equity Funding, on emerging issues of how to develop priorities, guidelines and grantmaking to meet the needs of a changing cultural landscape, takes place 3:30 to 5 PM. Presenters include Reuben Roqueñi (Native Arts & Cultures Foundation), Shirley Sneve (Native American Public Telecommunications) and Jessica Case (The Seattle Foundation). And Saturday’s lunchtime community dialogue will address major challenges and issues that arose during the Symposium’s plenary sessions and workshops. It will be moderated by Steve Sneed, with Seattle Center Productions, and Mayumi Tsutakawa, with the Washington State Arts Commission.

I hope to see you Friday at the Symposium.

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