We are a coalition of artists and arts professionals organized under the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street. Our goal is to inspire, support and participate in the creation of cultural work that amplifies the movement’s messaging, inspires people to join, mobilizes people to take action, exposes specific economic justice issues, envisions the alternative future we are building, asserts the crucial role that art plays in movement building, enacts the guiding principles of the Arts and Culture Committee, and brings joy, humor, and levity into the movement.
We urge you to join us.
Together, we must work to curb the art world’s self-cannibalizing tendencies, which feed a system that too often privileges monetary value over artistic vision and social import. Too long has the art world been satisfied with this atrophied status quo. The true artist is never satisfied! Let us collage, overlay, crumple up and redraw the blueprints of our society until our hands bleed. We must spearhead a critique of the commodification of art, and then we must combat it.
As both observer and participant, the artist is situated at a prime vantage point for holistic critique. Art is a tool of empowerment. It allows the underrepresented peoples of the world to speak for themselves, with their own voices, when the political systems have otherwise plugged their ears at their words. We the art world must not forget this responsibility.
Art is a rupturing force. Artists and art institutions have long stood at the forefront of our nation’s greatest social justice movements: civil rights for African Americans, the LGBT civil rights movement, the Feminist movement, the Indigenous rights movement. Today, the burden is on our fearless institutions to join the rallying cry of the 99%.
We must remember that our artistic insight and foresight is a gift and a privilege that cannot be hoarded. We cannot allow our vision to atrophy. The artist/activist must not become a part of our tradition that we look upon with nostalgia. We must not allow ourselves to be lulled to somnambulance by passive reflection upon shiny objects. We must cease our sycophantic drooling over wealth and celebrity. We must reaffirm the value of art outside a system of valuation. We must reclaim a public space for art and an art for the people.
We envision a future that would sustain: a living wage for artists, fair labor practices, greater state funding for the arts, and the creation of an artist’s union. The time to act is overripe.
But we need your help. We need your insight, your experience, and your dedication as we build this movement and shape its demands. Once we begin to secure endorsements from non-profit alternative arts spaces and projects like yours, we will organize a working group meeting with representatives from each organization to begin the actualizing process.
The change that we have been handed is not enough to live on. We need co-pilots who are brave enough to bypass those hopeful mirages and road-side attractions, knowing that Shangri-la is somewhere out there. To reach that new society, we must design the end of the road together.