Dear CultureSource Members,

Lately I've been pondering my role as a citizen and my responsibilities in a democratic society.

You might assume this introspection is spurred by the daily political and cultural developments being reported in news headlines; however, it is our arts and culture sector that has recently been dominant in making me reflect on the power of the people.

Last week I had dinner with Emory Douglas, minister of culture and resident artist for the Black Panther Party in the San Francisco Bay Area. [Thank you, Chrisstina Hamilton and Penny Stamps Speaker Series.] Emory's illustrations of Black life are undeniably provocative, and his print media work represents an empowered use of creative expression in pursuit of justice.

He said to me that he and his peers didn't know how to respond to the ethos of discrimination in their community in the late 1960s and '70s, so they just did what they knew how to do: make art. That clearly turned out to be powerfully enchanting for some and threatening for others.

I was also in Grand Rapids last week as one of ArtPrize's six “art critics” reviewing the public and juried finalists. The work classically ranged from common to esoteric, joyous to somber, and across it all, I was astonished by and admired the democracy of the exhibition platform—the city—and the freedom and facility of expression flowing from artists and spectators.

Though art does not have to be a battleground for social justice, I do hope that as this election season peaks, you are moved by the many moments in our sector of democracy in and through the arts, and that beyond this fall, you exploit art's potential to bring about equitable futures in our communities and with our neighbors.

...and if you want to take specific political action or get informed:

  • The Arts Alliance in Ann Arbor has results of Washtenaw County candidate surveys.
  • Americans for the Arts centralized advocacy resources in their Arts Mobilization Center.
  • And Creative Many Michigan has partnered with local organizations around the state for their 2018 Elections Hub. Additionally, Sarah Triplett, CMM’s Director of Public Policy, is available to help you navigate government landscapes.

Cheers,
Omari Rush