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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WHO IS "BASIC" IN THE ARTS??

T
oday, I attended the Creating Change! Equity and Inclusion Workshop at the Seattle Center facilitated by Carmen Morgan. It was about one of our favorite words, "diversity" and the what, how and who of it when it comes to the arts and the change we would all like to see.

I registered myself and my art ace +FINE ARTS BY SHURVON for this workshop because advancing the equity agenda in all facets of society is of the utmost importance.  It is the reason why I do my social justice art thing.

On our way to the workshop, my art ace and I had this amazing conversation on what it really means to have more cultures and values represented in the arts.  I swear every time we get on the phone, I wish we were recording.  Our conversations get that lively.  We have plans for an upcoming broadcast of sorts so stay tuned...


Who are the gatekeepers?

We reached the topic of gatekeepers in the arts and the damage they can cause, the havoc they wreak, and the overall epitome of "basic" they possess.  To me, a gatekeeper is one who has the power, privilege and purse to maintain the status quo which is often oppressive and exclusive.  They use their status to give their approval, assign value and legitimacy to others in the art world.  

I do believe the most basic of basic gatekeepers can be reformed and made into allies using their power, privilege and purse to advance the equity agenda.  However, if you are knowingly benefiting from your power and privilege with no f**** given and you just don't care, you are a basic a** gatekeeper in my book.  
Basically, when it comes to creating social change, the opposite of ally is basic.


Emerging vs. Established 

Somehow we started talking about labels in the arts.  Who decides who is an emerging artist versus an established artist?  I had this same conversation with an "established" artist in Ghana, West Africa.  It is interesting to consider the role gatekeepers play in these definitions because they can use their power, privilege and purse to move an emerging artist to one who is established.  What about the artists who have been producing and presenting their work for years but have yet to be approved by the gatekeepers?  By approved, I mean chosen for exhibitions, residencies, grants, awards, fellowships, etc...

Doesn't it seem inaccurate to call these artists emerging?  Does an artist stay parked at emerging until magically deemed established?  Inquiring minds want to know.   
    
These are important questions to explore because deciding who can be characterized as a working artist or who can make a living from their craft should not hinge on a label bestowed by basic gatekeepers.

This is just a sample of the conversation we had before we even made it to the workshop, mind you.  The workshop was informative and those highlights may appear in an upcoming post.    

Share your thoughts in the comments.  Invite others to the conversation by sharing this post with a friend or five.  

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