“Anytime you start to feel overwhelmed by the shitshow that is humanity’s impact on people, animals, and the planet, anytime you see that sentient cheeto’s awful face, anytime you think you cannot leave the house because the world is too hard, think about the art, performance, music, books, films, that made you want to be alive. Think about how those artists, like you, felt overwhelmed by their life and time but they made the thing anyway. Your future audiences need your work.”
Last Friday I spent the later part of the day catching up on podcasts, and one of my favorites — Call Your Girlfriend — featured an interview with art consultant Beth Pickens who talked about creating and being creative as a form of political engagement.
Since the election, so many of us feel lost. Battles we thought we had won must be fought all over again even as new obstacles appear on the horizon. We may be feeling a little discouraged, run down, depressed, and angry. I know I am.
I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I don’t have a ton of money or time to give, and I feel bad for being unsure if I should give at all. My girlfriend and I are trying to plan a wedding, we have a house that needs work, and we are thinking about kids….one day, maybe. We have a dream and a plan, and I had hoped to put every dollar and minute toward that goal.
I feel selfish for saying that.
What kind of person am I that I can’t pull back from my personal life and look at the big picture. So many people throughout history gave their time and money so that I could live a better life, I should do the same. I should give back. But every time I think that I think of my girlfriend and the future we want and I can’t break the promise I made to her that we would have that perfect home and family one day, and I go on feeling bad.
But then I heard Beth Pickens talking about art, and her zine, and after, I contacted her and asked for a copy. I printed and folded it at work and read it as soon as I got home.
In it there is a questionnaire and a lot of it focuses on what you can give through your art. There is even a question about what you are not willing to give. It’s about how you should just keep doing what you are doing and do it for yourself and for the cause. It’s about doing what feels right.
Reading this little pamphlet made me realize that what I am already doing can help. I am already fighting, and I can fight even harder by using my love for words and art. I may not be the best, and I might not have the biggest audience, but what I have is valuable, and the people that follow me care. I can share my story, and I can share other stories. I can let people know I am here, that I am with them, and that I feel the way they feel.
I can spread hope, information, and encouragement. I can:
Make art for self-care. The world is a harsh place and being alive is a hard thing to do. Life is confusing and terrifying, and so often sad. Art helps us express how we feel, and in doing so, we release something that was hurting us and find others who feel the same way. Art leads to comfort and community.
Make art to provide a service. One of the best ways to care for ourselves is to take the time to care for other people. Art can help people. Offer your services for a cause. Use your preferred media to raise awareness. Use your art to help someone else do good in the world.
Make art to explain what is happening. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around where we are in this country. Scientist and journalists do their best to get the information to us, but there are things about humans that are better explained through art and poetry than reporting.
Make art to teach people how to live. Humans can never be perfect but the more we know, the better we are. Art can bring each of us into worlds and experiences we would never encounter. Art can teach us how to live together in compassion and consideration.
Make art to fight back. There will always be people who want to make the world in their image and to them what is different is scary and cannot be allowed to exist. Make art and show them that you and many people like you are here and we are not giving up. Make art that is loud. Make art they cannot ignore. Make art that will make them think.
I am making art, through words and through pictures, because art is the path I hope will lead to the realization my personal dreams. I am going to create art and share it wherever I can to speak up and stand up for what I believe in. The world needs art, more now than ever, and I want to do my part.
The world needs artists, like you, now more than ever, to fight back.