Responses to Americans for the Arts

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Dear Americans for the Arts:

Thank you so much for your interest in the art and artists of #OccupyWallStreet, and the Arts and Culture Committee of the NYC General Assembly. We recognize the vital and important role that Americans for the Arts has played over the past half-century supporting art for all Americans. We applaud all of your hard work and efforts and invite Americans for the Arts to join us in advocating for art by and for the 99%. How can we work together to further arts for all? We invite your input! We encourage you to mobilize Americans for the Arts in support of us, who support you! Let’s reclaim the public space for art. Let’s proclaim the central role that art must have in America. Let’s occupy to bring arts back to America!

1.       What is the mission statement and role of the Arts and Culture Committee in the OWS movement?

We, the Arts and Culture Committee of #OccupyWallStreet, work with and support the peaceful occupation of Liberty Square by the 99%. We aim to inspire people to join us, empower people to take action, expose specific economic injustices, and envision the alternative future we are building. We work to foster and participate in the creation of cultural work that amplifies the movement’s messages. To this end, we assert the crucial role that art plays in movement building, enact the guiding principles of #OccupyWallStreet*, and bring peace, joy, humor, critical analysis, and collective and personal introspection into the movement.

Communication through art is essential to this movement.

We believe art is not a luxury item. It is a commonwealth that belongs not just to the 1%, but to all of us. We believe that art-making is not privileged to so-called talent or relegated to extracurricular activity, but, rather, that it is a universal language that is essential to human growth, learning, happiness, and sustainability.

By engaging artists within the occupation and by sharing the principles of the occupation with those on the outside, we will build a creative revolution together.

We encourage artists to create their individual mission statements with the same love, patience, and care that one gives to a work of art. We are not a political party or a non–profit corporation— we are a social movement. And we, the 99%, give ourselves and you the permission to continue to re-imagine what a mission statement can be. Let’s dream big together.

2.       In what ways are the protestors at OWS utilizing artistic practices to express their political and personal viewpoints?

The occupation itself is art, birthed from a set of values and principles that activate creative, independent, and critical thought. We are painting signs and bodies, playing music, dancing, singing and composing poems. We are occupying NYC with street theater and interventions. We are sharing stories and books. We are mounting art exhibits and libraries. We are building websites, taking photographs, making movies, archiving work, and bearing witness.

Through art of all mediums, we express ourselves and bring vision, joy, and beauty to the occupation. Through creative action, we bring the possibility of democratic arts to Liberty Square, to the 99%, and, ultimately, to the 100%. We are sharing our expression with the world, and we are inviting the world to share its expressions with us. Our artistic protests open dialogue with passersby and skeptics. We are encouraging all of us to interpret our times, our spaces and our experiences creatively, peacefully and forcefully.

3.       What role have the arts played in the development of the OWS movement and its message thus far? And in what ways can they contribute to sustaining this movement?

#OccupyWallStreet is our Constitutional right to free speech and free expression.  Art has always been at the forefront of these rights.  It is as much a part of the occupation as eating, sleeping, marching and talking. We are occupying Wall Street and making art at the same time and for the same reason.  We make visible the cracks in society and fill them with creative solutions.

4.       In your opinion, what is the most important role that the arts play in political activism, particularly with regard to this movement?

The economic will of the 1% is at the core of too many of our arts forums today.  So today, more than ever, we must reaffirm the transcendent value of art beyond its auction price.

Art is a rupturing force! For inspiration, we look to public art programs from the 30s. We look to the movements of the 60s and 70s. We look to Black Arts Movement, Bullet Space, Act Up, Gran Fury, Dyke Action Machine, who used art to express the repressed wills of oppressed peoples. We look to Haiti, Argentina, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Palestine, whose artful revolutions have taught us all a thing or two about democracy.

We learn from our history and we pick up where they left off. We watch our contemporaries and we proudly join our voices together with theirs. But we realize that unfettered capitalism has brought our society to a breaking point. We know that without a forum for these diasporic visions that build our nation, our freedom of expression will be stifled. The time is now. We are establishing that open space. By peacefully expressing our political freedom, but more than that – our collective humanity – through the occupation of Wall Street, we are demonstrating–as artists, citizens, and as free people–the power of the people to assert their will for justice for all.

5.       Since its conception, have more artists been joining the movement? And in what ways can they contribute creatively to the movement?

Artists from around the world are joining us daily.

We encourage supporters, some of whom may never before have dared to identify as “artists,” to tap into their inner creativity and collaborate with us.  We are actively reaching out to others to help us build a broader and stronger community that provokes an alternative dialogue.

We encourage artists to occupy beyond Wall Street. We must occupy our homes, our studios, our museums, our schools, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our towns and cities. We must bring the art of the people back to the people.

6.       What types of art or cultural events have taken place during or in connection to the occupation?

Some of the art that has already happened at #OccupyWallStreet is archived athttp://www.occupennial.org/ows-art-listing/ and https://www.nycga.net/groups/arts-and-culture/
We are constantly developing more art actions for the near future.

The #OccupyWallStreet movement has received much interest from many different people, projects, and institutions. This support is welcome provided that these parties follow or are open to dialogue about adopting our principles. Some commercial galleries and institutions have tried to take advantage of this movement by appropriating the name, symbols and art of the movement without abiding by its principles. Some have deliberately deceived artists in order to amplify their agendas and increase their personal profits.

It is important for us to remember that we are not a business. We are not a political party. We are not an advertising campaign. We are not a brand. We are not for sale. We support partnerships with those who wish to make this movement accessible to all, regardless of economic, political, ethnic, or social status.

We will keep you posted as we continue to develop statements that guide our movement.

*Direct democracy, Non Hierarchy, Transparency, Accountability, Diversity, Anti-Oppression, Autonomy, Cooperation, Participation, Inclusion, Flexibility, Sustainability, Mutual Respect, Unleashing the revolutionary imagination!

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