By no coincidence, today’s post appears as an alternative to giving any airtime whatsoever to the 45th President of the US of A, who by his odious words and reprehensible actions, inspires me now to “light a candle instead of cursing the darkness”. Artists especially, along with other cultural practitioners, have reason to be wary of what the future holds for the next few years, if the past 12 months or so are anything to go by. Citizens have assaulted other citizens because of gender, skin colour, or the language they speak; journalists have been blacklisted; actors and other outspoken celebrities threatened with harm or vociferously bullied online…and that’s just the output from one man’s Twitter feed. Yet, despite the global storm of bigotry, fear, and ignorance, we artists must remain courageous, determined, and active – and here are five things we can do to see through the negative spaces ahead…

1. Make art

Then make some more. Observe, respond, and always, watch with a critical eye. Artists often bear the duty of social conscience, and there’s a lot of us, so if you’re feeling up to it, put yourself out there, exhibit, or at least share your work on social media.

Entrance to 'Nasty Women' exhibition in Knockdown Center, Queens, NYC. Image courtesy
Entrance to ‘Nasty Women’ exhibition in Knockdown Center, Queens, NYC. Image courtesy

You could follow the example of 80 women artists in New York City who, in directly quoting Trump’s public insult to Hillary Clinton, put together a “Nasty Women” exhibition to aid Planned Parenthood, a US women’s health care organisation currently under threat by the incoming administration (this one Nasty event raised more than $42,000 in essential funds for the charity). “Nasty Women” soon expanded into a movement joined by thousands more female artists – and now there are 30 Nasty events/exhibitions all over the world, and counting, with many still accepting submissions. So get making, ladies!

Samantha Davis, 'Women's work', 2017. Image courtesy
Samantha Davis, ‘Women’s work’, 2017. Image courtesy

There’s also a link above, “Make your story“, containing a list of art opportunities, prizes, or commissions that happen in and around London yearly.

2. Support each other

An article was published not too long ago in the Washington Post, about the subject of “amplification”, which is simply the idea of helping a sister (or a bro) out by repeating key points she said whilst at the same time giving credit where credit is due. Outside of live interactions, Facebook and Twitter can be great tools for amplification, so comment and share great ideas around!

Image courtesy
Image courtesy

Another way to support the artists in your community is to go to their exhibitions, to talk about the art, or just be present. Write about art (and share how art has affected you, your local community, and more). Go see plays, read books, buy concert tickets, attend lectures. Volunteer. Or even, have a creative tete-a-tete over a cuppa with your artist friend. Oh, and last but not least, if you have the means, for goodness sakes, collect art from living artists so they can continue to make more!

Some good art listings sites:

3. Collaborate

In light of recent divisive attitudes from elected leaders and fellow citizens alike, it is imperative to defy these barriers and find ways to link up with other creative makers. Cross cultural boundaries. Seek alliance with other cultural practitioners, reach across borders, work with someone who speaks a different language. Find some curious, open-minded people and make something together.

Artist Sybilla Skaluba demonstrates how to write your name with a single line, a project developed with Jonathan Slaughter and Izabela Leska for 'Connect: London and Katowice'. Image courtesy Photo credit Izabela Leska.
Artist Sybilla Skaluba demonstrates how to write your name with a single line, a project developed with Jonathan Slaughter and Izabela Leska for ‘Connect: London and Katowice’. Image courtesy Photo credit Izabela Leska.

Just one brilliant example of the kind of cross-cultural, cross-border dialogue I am talking about is happening right now, and one I’m proud to be a part of. Known as “Connect: London and Katowice” not only are 30-odd British and Polish artists sharing the workload to produce artworks, they are also experiencing the inevitable by-products of such a project, each coming away with a little more understanding, a touch more empathy, and a whole lotta pride of overcoming challenges together.

Check out these links with more opportunities for collaboration:

  • Res Artis – “a world-wide network of artist residencies”
  • Alliance of artist communities – “one-stop guide to residencies for visual artists, writers, composers, choreographers, scholars, filmmakers, community artists, architects, and more – around the world and in your backyard.”
  • Hit Record – an online collaborative “engine” for film, music, and art creatives, started by TV/film actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • LinkedInYes, LinkedIn! It’s not just for bankers, marketing professionals, and IT consultants! Once you have a (free) account you can join groups such as Art Professionals Worldwide and open discussions with other artists around the world.

4. See, play, explore

According to a recent post on the Arts Council blog, people around the world can beat the Monday blues (or gloom on any day of the week) with art because “engaging with art and culture makes us happier, more relaxed and more attentive to the world around us.” That’s the best news for 2017 that I’ve heard yet, which grants everyone free licence to discover art, music, theatre, and other new things like it is a medical prescription.

View of the Grand Canal, Venice during the Biennale art fair, October 2013. Photo credit Kelise Franclemont.
View of the Grand Canal, Venice during the Biennale art fair, October 2013. Photo credit Kelise Franclemont.

Although all of that discovery could happen while attending the world’s most famous art gathering, the Venice Biennale (in the odd years), or even a less-famous art fair like Qalandiya International in Palestine (in the even years), one could unearth the art bonanza just by visiting a new part of London. In one of my own yearly art scavenger hunts, the capital’s “Sculpture in the City” programme leads me around London’s Square Mile trying to capture a snapshot of every artwork, if only for the prize of personal satisfaction (last year there was one up a tree that took me an enjoyable hour to find).

Anthony Caro, 'Aurora', 2016, in Sculpture in the City 2016, London. Photo credit Kelise Franclemont.
Anthony Caro, ‘Aurora’, 2016, in Sculpture in the City 2016, London. Photo credit Kelise Franclemont.

Some more places to discover art:

5. Speak up, speak out!

The final (in this list anyway, but certainly not the only) means to make your voice heard over the buzz of ignorance, fear, and hate is to communicate, debate, discuss, and act. Get involved, make a banner, join a march. If you are unable to join the protests/ actions/ strikes for the cause you believe in, then write a letter to your MP (or in the US, your Congressperson). If that’s not something you can do, then find other ways to support those positive, constructive activities in your communities (e.g., make a hat, plant a gardenrun a marathon, or volunteer).

Here are a few more ways to add your voice to a choir of others with the same aspirations:

  • Women’s March on London – 21st January 2017, starting 12:00 at Grosvenor Square, where women in London are joining solidarity marches around the world to protest/respond to the campaign and election of the US President.
  • Petition Parliament38degrees, and – join millions of people to initiate and support petitions for hundreds of causes

More links and related posts: