Last Thursday and Friday I lead a workshop on the arts and social change. The participants were people who are practicing one or more of the arts, and interested people from other walks of life. The focus of the workshop was two-fold: to inform the participants of some of the exciting art that has been done, or is ongoing, from around the world, and to suggest a process for making socially engaged art.
Thursday evening we looked at short video clips from theatre, dance, and installation art, as well as several still images from India and elsewhere. I believe the audience was most engaged by a clip from Axis dance, and from artwork created in response to a recent brutal rape and murder of a young Indian woman. We spent the second half of the evening discussing ideas and challenges related to creating social change through the arts.
Friday we held a panel of artists making socially engaged art. The panel consisted of Jennie, who spoke about her work with traumatized villagers in Bangladesh; and our friends Eric Miller, Director of the World Storytelling Institute, who has worked for several years with Indian tribal storytellers in an effort to protect and preserve their stories and culture; and Magdalene Jeyarathnam, Director of the East/West Center for Counseling who has engaged the LGBT community in art making and community building. The rest of the evening was devoted to thinking and imagining together about the ideas and projects of the participants.
Perhaps the most important function of the workshop was to build community among artists and others who are socially engaged. If the number of business cards being exchanged was any indication, we all did well.
I am grateful to Sharan Apparao of the Apparao Gallery for offering me the opportunity to lead the workshop, the participants who entered wholeheartedly into the fray, and to Eric who came early both evenings and provided invaluable technical support. A special nod goes to Shreya Singh at the gallery, who somehow managed to pull together all the logistics for both our workshops. Many thanks!