This first-of-its-kind compendium unites perspectives from artists, scholars, arts educators, policymakers, and activists to investigate the complex system of values surrounding artistic-educational endeavors. Addressing a range of artistic domains-including music, dance, theater, visual arts, film, and poetry-contributors explore and critique the conventions that govern our interactions with these practices. Artistic Citizenship focuses on the social responsibilities and functions of amateur and professional artists and examines ethical issues that are conventionally dismissed in discourses on these topics. The questions this book addresses include:

  • How does the concept of citizenship relate to the arts?
  • What sociocultural, political, environmental, and gendered "goods" can artistic engagements create for people worldwide?
  • Do particular artistic endeavors have distinctive potentials for nurturing artistic citizenship?
  • What are the most effective strategies in the arts to institute change and/or resist local, national, and world problems?
  • What obligations do artists and consumers of art have to facilitate relationships between the arts and citizenship?
  • How can artistic activities contribute to the eradication of adverse 'ism's?

Blog

The Very Decency of Paula Vogel’s “Indecent”

Paula Vogel’s Indecent is a play about our past, present, and future; it is a play about the many ways society judges its people; it is a play about GLBT rights; it is a play about the good and bad of humanity; but it is also a love story—a love for theater and the transformative powers the theater holds for audiences and players alike.

Structured as a play within a play, Indecent retells the history of Sholem Asch’s 1907 Yiddish drama, God of Vengeance. After touring the world to critical acclaim, and at its Broadway debut at the Apollo Theater on 42nd Street, Asch’s work was shut down in 1923 for obscenity; all the actors were arrested given the drama’s exploration of same-sex love. Asch’s work is pinned against the backdrop of anti-Semitism—additionally, general anti-immigration sentiments—in the United States. So largely, Vogel’s Indecent illustrates the ways in which the oppressed maintain their identities and dignity when pushed to the margins.

Interestingly, Asch’s play is as relevant today as it was, then, when it toured the world. And so Vogel’s prism-view of God of Vengeance refracts the very essence of today with incredible clarity and precision. Vogel states:

I didn’t anticipate that Indecent would be as relevant today as it is; we are witnessing an upheaval of fear, xenophobia, homophobia, and, yes, anti-Semitism. We are in the midst of the strongest white nationalism since the 1920s when American borders were closed to immigrants. In this moment of time we must say that we are all Muslim. We must reclaim the importance of our arts and culture. We must remember where the closing of borders in the 20th century led nations around the globe.

Crossing Point Arts

Can the arts make crucial differences for those in need? Meet Crossing Point Arts. This non-profit organization harnesses the social, cultural, emotional, and political power of the arts and helps survivors of human trafficking reclaim their sense of selves through art-making. From their website:

Crossing Point Arts was founded by a small group of New York City activist artists. This group came together to offer their hearts – and their art forms – to survivors as a step towards managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In workshop format, participants have the opportunity to be guided by Teaching Artists and Expressive Arts Therapists in singing, song-creation, dance, visual arts, poetry and theater.

The mission of the organization: “to bring the healing and restorative power of the arts to survivors of human trafficking through expressive arts workshops, helping them to release trauma, reclaim their once-silenced voices and learn long-term coping strategies.”

See their newsletter here: Crossing Point Arts – Spring Newsletter No. 5

In the Voices of Their Own

In Artistic Citizenship, Aria Fani examines Persian literary cultures, specifically in Afghanistan. For Fani, and for Persian peoples, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989) ignited a heightened awareness of concepts of citizenship, homeland, and exile. In the absence of a centralized political body in Kabul, Persian poets expressed variegated narratives of what constituted Afghan “identity” and loyalty to the nation.

Poetry of Afghanistan maintains ancient roots. And for thousands of years in Afghanistan, various peoples and forms of poetic expression have been and continue to be sites of resistance and, therefore, artistic citizenship. One such form is the “landay.”

As journalist and poet Eliza Griswold notes, the landay is:

an oral and often anonymous scrap of song created by and for mostly illiterate people: the more than twenty million Pashtun women who span the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Traditionally, landays are sung aloud, often to the beat of a hand drum, which, along with other kinds of music, was banned by the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, and in some places, still is.

Travelling in Afghanistan, Griswold collected numerous landays for the book I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan.

And since then, the New Zealand born composer Gemma Peacocke has set these two-lined poems in the multimedia work Waves + Lines for soprano, chamber ensemble, and electronics.

Hear this evocative work live on June 22 at 8pm, at Roulette. Here is “Love” from Waves + Lines

Soprano: Eliza Bagg
Pianist: Borah Han
Percussionist: Adam Holmes
Double bassist: Shawn Lovato

Recorded by: Yi-Wen Lai-Tremewan
Mixed and mastered by: Gregory Wayne Hanson Jr.

Text from:
I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan
by Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy

 

Voices

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence includes any

willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.

Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. It is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.

In response to domestic violence, one letter to the editor of The New York Times asks: “Do we endorse this cruelty in silence? Or do we stand together to protect the most vulnerable among us?”

Artist Cat Del Buono is standing up and outwardly doing something about this. In one such project, Voicesfunded by a grant from Baang + Burne Contemporary, Del Buono spent two years

interviewing domestic violence survivors at shelters in Miami, Hartford, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. After filming only their mouths to keep the women anonymous, Del Buono created an installation of 20 small monitors with the lips of the survivors speaking of their personal experience. When viewers walk into the exhibit, the multiple voices create a symphony of unrecognizable words. Only when you approach an individual monitor do you hear their personal and traumatic stories and how they have gotten out of their situations. The necessity of this movement on the part of viewers acts as a metaphor: only when one gets close do they learn of the individual’s traumatic experiences. As a society, we must not allow the epidemic of domestic violence and those who are affected by it to remain an invisible, inaudible crowd of statistics.

Here is a sample of one of the video installations

Voices has travelled across the United States, and was recently exhibited at Blue Sky GalleryBronx MuseumWinthrop UniversityArt Palm Beach, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami where it was accompanied by a panel discussion open to the public. Local NPR radio host Bonnie Berman moderated the panel consisting of domestic abuse survivor, a local advocate, teen violence advocate, the museum’s director of international programs, and Del Buono.

Del Buono received a BA from Boston College, an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and attended the graduate film program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Trained as a photographer and filmmaker, Del Buono creates video installations and public happenings. She incorporates performance, interactive video, and humor as ways to engage and impact her viewers.

 

For Freedoms

The heart of Artistic Citizenship asks artists of all kinds, whether amateur or professional and across all arts domains, to ask critically important questions, such as:

What responsibilities do artists have to engage in art work for social transformation?

One organization—or, “super PAC” as they call themselves—aptly named “For Freedoms,” not only interrogates this question, but also activates this question for those whom engage with their artistry. As Celia McGee writes:

Founded by Hank Willis Thomas, a photographer and conceptual artist, and Eric Gottesman, a video artist and activist, the super PAC is named after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” wartime address in 1941 — a call to safeguard the freedoms of speech and worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.

Contributing artists and photographers include Carrie Mae WeemsRashid JohnsonXaviera SimmonsAlec Soth, Bayeté Ross Smith, Fred Tomaselli and Marilyn Minter. Their works will be used for billboards, building signs, subway advertising, Internet memes, social media and select print advertising, potentially even yard signs, and ultimately an art show at the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea.

For Freedoms describes their mission as follows:

As the first artist-run super PAC, For Freedoms uses art to inspire deeper political engagement for citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape.

WE BELIEVE

We believe that artists, and art, play an important role in galvanizing our society to do better. We are frustrated with a system in which money, divisiveness, and a general lack of truth-telling have stifled complex conversation. We created the first artist-run super Pac because we believe it’s time for artists to become more involved in the political process.

What can we learn about the role of art in politics from For Freedoms? We leave this up to you to decide. For now, we urge you to think-through today through the lens of the actions and activism of For Freedoms.

A Jim Goldberg photograph from the Postcards From America series. Jackie Smith, protesting gentrification in Memphis, at the site of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., now the National Civil Rights Museum.

Once You Are Not a Stranger

Janis Brenner & Dancers premieres Once You Are Not A Stranger. Created in collaboration with Bosnian-born, electro-acoustic composer Svjetlana Bukvich, costume designer Sue Julien, lighting designer Mitchell Bogard, and installation artist Eva Petric from Slovenia, this 45-minute, interdisciplinary work investigates notions of “empathy in a multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious world and uses the dance company as a microcosm of this world.”

Video projections are embedded in the center of an elaborate set-piece, playing a personal and imagistic role in the work. Performed with live music, including Ms. Brenner on vocals.

After a meaningful tour to Sarajevo, composer Bukvich and choreographer/singer/actor Brenner spoke about collaborating. As Bukvich states:

Janis and I conversed about things that interested us and empathy came up right away, as did the need to really hear one another. I spoke about walking in someone else’s shoes – feeling wise – and how that impacts the strangeness in any relationship…Visually, the piece unfolds in wavy patterns which “freeze” on occasion, or so was our intention. There is a hanging set piece onto which video is projected in the same fashion. With each unfolding, messages becomes clearer, there is a shedding, a letting go, a cutting into deeper layers of pain and, yes, beauty and goodness which lurk in all of us. Like taming a wild animal, the piece comes to terms with its audience. The music is complex and electronic at first, then becomes gradually acoustic, with a string quartet, then a voice, a scrape of a shoe, and into silence. Art-rock-meets-electronic experimental-meets-old world sentimental.

For more information on the premiere, visit Gibney Dance.

In the mean time, watch the ETHEL String Quartet perform an arrangement of this work. The following segment was performed as part of Composers Concordance’s Roundtable concert at (le) Poisson Rouge on January 26th, 2017.
Video by Eddie Papetti

 

Concert for Peace

Thank you, Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, for your support of our book. Yes, collective singing — all collective music making — is a powerful and potent source of good depending on the contexts and circumstances of the musicing.

Because of this, thank you in advance for your “Concert for Peace”!

For those interested in the Thomas Turino quote from Artistic Citizenship that speaks to the above:

“The topic of music and social change conjures up images of dramatic political moments such as the freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement. In that movement, it was the very act of collective singing as much as the content of the lyrics—“We Shall Overcome”—and associations of the tunes with the Black Church and previous labor movements that galvanized protesters. Collective singing illogically steeled regular people to put themselves in harms way, to lovingly turn the other cheek, to peacefully face rocks, sticks, bricks, fire hoses and police dogs. Similarly, in Germany during the 1930s and early 1940s, collective singing of Nazi songs was common among people at the end of work days, among youth at summer camps, and among average citizens at many social gatherings. Again, it was the repeated act of massive collective singing as much as the content of the lyrics—“Work, Bread, and Death to the Jew”— that helped prepare normal citizens, again illogically, to acquiesce to, and even participate in mass murder. In both cases music functioned in very much the same ways to alter peoples’ consciousnesses, to prepare them for heroism or villainy—to be the very best or the very worst humans can be.” (“Music, Social Change, and Alternative Forms of Citizenship,” p. 297)

Why the Arts Matter

What happens to us when we actively engage as art-makers or art-takers? Who do we become?

Given the complexities of today’s political, social, and emotional landscapes, engaging with/through the arts is as important now more than ever. Why? “With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s easy to question the value of telling stories or making sculptures.” While some may be tempted to question the arts at times like these, we disagree. And so does Miguel Syjuco.

“Silence, it is said, implies complicity. But that’s only half the story. Silence also confirms oppression, because the ability to speak out is too often a luxury of the privileged.

The aggressive populism we see today seems to be a testament to people refusing to be silent – and rightly so. Our societies have largely failed to provide equally for all, and technology now gives us new avenues through which to be heard, and with which to rebel against repressive ideas and structures. New leaders have latched onto that and now seek to speak for us, even though many of them are rallying us crudely around fear and mistrust.”

Art making and art taking help us raise our voices to the level of consciousness. The arts confirm that we do not need to remain silent and complicit.

Pablo Picasso knew this all too well. That’s why he painted “Guernica.”

Food for thought on why the arts matter…

Artistic Citizenship and Urban Music Education Symposium

“In what ways do our artistic endeavors implicate responsibilities to each other and to our collective human identities?” We pose this question in our book, Artistic Citizenship: Artistry, Social Responsibility and Ethical Praxis. This provocation provides a point of entry for this symposium as we explore the notion of music education as/for artistic citizenship, challenging our purpose and praxis in and out of the classroom. Afternoon sessions address choral and instrumental ensembles, guitar, songwriting and technology in the classroom as we consider pivoting the discourse, expanding curriculum offerings, and democratizing the music space.
Cost at the door, $10. Lunch will be provided.

 

Artistic Citizenship and Urban Music Education is just days away. The schedule looks fabulous! Thank you, Susan Davis, for organizing such a special event. Still time to register: http://acsmsymposium.weebly.com

Schedule:

10:00-10:30 Coffee and Bagels, registration

10:30-12:30 Keynote presentation, Q&A and Discussion
David J. Elliott & Marissa Silverman

12:30-1:30 Lunch

Breakout Sessions

Choral Track

1:30-2:30 Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, Your Choir, Their Refuge: The Strength of Choir in a Trans Student’s World

2:30-3:30 H. Roz Woll and Roy Jennings, Teaching Choral Music of the African Diaspora: Toward a Living Black History

3:30-4:30 Mariel Berger: Resistance through Creative Collaboration: Collective Songwriting for Social Justice and Artistic Citizenship

Instrumental Track

1:30-2:30 Susan Davis, “Pretty good for a girl:” Female fiddlers with activist agendas

2:30-3:30 Kristin Mozeiko and katie bishop, A song with Words:
​ The Melodies of a Trans Femme in the World of Music

3:30-4:30 Peter Douskalis: “Coup D’Amour” – Creating an inclusive curriculum: Multicultural Music and Intercultural Harmony

Guitar/Songwriting Track

1:30-2:30 Adam Goldberg: Building Student Voice via Technology, Social Awareness and Musical Self-Expression

2:30-3:30 Martin Urbach: Liberation Through musicing:
The k-12 music classroom as a social justice playground

3:30-4:30 Scott Burstein: Little Kids Rock and Amp Up NYC

Lingering Thoughts

4:30-5:00 Panel in LeFrak – final thoughts, Q&A, suggestions for mobilization

Framing “Artistic Citizenship”

“Artistic citizenship” is a concept with which we hope to encapsulate our belief that artistry involves civic-social-humanistic-emancipatory responsibilities, obligations to engage in art making that advances social “goods.” The terms artist, artistry, and artistic as we use them are not elitist. By “artists” we mean to include people of all ages (from youth to adults) and levels of technical accomplishment (from amateur to professional practitioners) who make and partake of art(s) of all kinds, in contexts ranging from informal to formal, with the primary intent of making positive differences in people’s lives. Whereas artistic proficiency entails myriad skills and understandings, artistic citizenship implicates additional commitments to act in ways that move people—both emotionally and in the sense of mobilizing them as agents of positive change. Artistic citizens are committed to engaging in artistic actions in ways that can bring people together, enhance communal wellbeing, and contribute substantially to human thriving.

In framing this book’s project we invited contributors across art disciplines to share their research, their practical projects and strategies, their experiences, and their insights as artistic citizens. We deliberately left open the meaning of “artistic citizenship,” however, in order to allow a range of interpretations and perspectives to emerge. The result is, we think, an imaginative and inspiring collection of essays, richly suggestive in their range and scope. They address and explore quite a number of interlocking and provocative questions, including these:

  • What does “citizenship” mean and how might these meanings relate to our understandings of the privileges and obligations that attend artistic practices?
  • How might “artistic citizenship” differ from (or resemble) citizenship in general?
  • Is there a polity called art to which persons belong, owe allegiance, and derive benefits? If there is such a polity, what practices does being an artistic citizen require?
  • In what ways and to what extent do art-makers and art-takers have responsibilities (or obligations) to deploy the potentials of the arts to advance social justice, human rights, and the like?
  • What personal, social, cultural, educational, political, therapeutic, economic, and health-giving “goods” can artistic engagements (amateur or professional) facilitate?
  • What ethical issues and responsibilities attend the concept of art making as force for advancing positive social and political change?
  • How might artistic citizens engage the “general public” in artistic projects designed to serve diverse public, social, cultural, political interests?
  • How can ethically-oriented artistry contribute to the mitigation of racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and ethnocentricism, and other forms of social injustice?
  • What abilities and dispositions of body-mind and heart do amateur and professional artists require if they are to engage in, develop, and expand the possibilities and potentials of artistic citizenship?
  • What historical precedents can inform and refine our understandings of the “why, what, how, who, where, and when” of artistic citizenship?
  • What are the most effective strategies and tactics that artist-activists (or “artivists”[i]) to confront problems like racial violence, poverty, disease, discrimination, and the like?
  • What are the specific or distinctive potentials of particular artistic endeavors for fulfilling the commitments and responsibilities of artistic citizenship?
  • How can school and community arts education programs develop young people’s habits of heart and mind in and through socially responsible art making?

Additional questions and issues emerge from the chapters in the book, questions too numerous to list here. But the questions, discussions, and actions to which the book’s essays lead will be the ultimate measure of this project’s significance. We leave it to our readers, then, to carry these conversations forward—to follow the leads offered by contributors to this volume. Although we cannot know precisely the form those ideas may eventually assume, it is our hope that they will involve continuous critical dialogue across artistic disciplines about the ethical potentials of artistry, the nature of artistic responsibility, and the remarkable capacities of art to improve our neighborhoods, our societies, and our world.

[i] The concept of “artivism” and therefore “artivist” can be found in Rodney Diverlus’ chapter (in this volume) and also Chela Sandoval and Guisela Latorre (2007). Chicana/o Artivism: Judy Baca’s Digital Work with Youth of Color, in Anna Everett (Ed.) Learning Race and Ethnicity, (pp. 81-108), MIT Press.