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The 4 things to keep in mind when doing art for social change

I do this work of teaching artistry in order to make a difference in the world.  Don’t you? And I am constantly learning how to do it better.  So yesterday, when I had the honor and privilege to “hang out” online with 3 women I admire very much – Sarah Crowell, Elia Gurna, and Kai Fierle-Hedrick – I was thrilled how much I got to learn from each of them about why this work is so important and how they go about it in their organizations and communities.

Read more on the Teaching Artists Guild blog>>>

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Thinking About Lost History & Cocktails on Memorial Day

A Memorial Day blog post should be about fun and friends and amazing summer cocktails to serve at your barbeque. I get it. And I do have a cocktail that I’m eager to share with you. I promise. But first, let’s just take a second this Memorial Day morning to pay tribute to the fallen. I don’t just mean the fallen soldiers. This morning, I am thinking about the billions of folks whose stories have fallen away from our history.  READ THE FULL POST ON PLENTY OF ICE>>>

The number 1 reason I am sick & tired of going to the movies

It’s Friday.  I got a promotional email from Fandango today that read “You made it through the week…it’s movie time.”  Sounds nice.  But, I have no plans to go to the movies tonight.  What’s the point?

Should I see this?

Or this?

I have to say that I am just sick and tired of it.  I am sick and tired of the same old stories of (white) boys with the power to bring everybody together, change everyone’s hearts, and lead the rest of us to discover new areas of the human heart that we never thought possible.  It happens over and over again…It’s not just this new movie…it’s practically every inspirational, tear-jerker, family movie that you can recall.

Looks what happens when you Google “Inspirational Movies”

And I am sick and tired of the same old stories of (white) girls who are teeming with insanity, possessed by the devil, and the inevitable victim of some legendary psychopath.  It happens over and over again…It’s not just this new movie…it’s practically every blood-soaked, fear-inducing, scream-filled movie that you can recall.

Looks what happens when you Google “Horror Movies”

I am just sick and tired of the same old story in mainstream Hollywood.  Girls (white) are scary, crazy objects to be feared and killed.  Boys (white) are fearless leaders to emulate and aspire to become.  And the rest of us (black girls, black boys, queer folks, Immigrants, old folks, etc., etc., etc.) don’t really even matter that much unless we’re Will Smith, one of his kids, or needed to run from the above-mentioned scary girls or provide additional protection to the above-mentioned inspirational boys.

Like Fandango said, I made it through another long week.  I get to rest and relax and bring  myself some comfort with family and friends.  It’s too bad that I can’t do that at the movies.

 

 

 

 

The Art of…

The phrase “The Art of…” is everywhere.  It’s used for everything.  As an artist, this inspires me.  Perhaps there is hope for us.

Just google it and see what happens.  You discover the famous book, “The Art of War,” of course.  But you also discover a business that sells high-end products for men called, “the art of shaving.”   There is another site for men, a blog dedicated to uncovering the real virtues of being a man in modern times, called “the art of manliness.”  And you may be surprised to learn that Mariah Carey has been working on an album for sometime called “the art of letting go” that still has no release date.

Keep going.  Folks put the phrase “The Art of…” in front of everything.  We especially like to apply it to our work…no matter what kind of work we do.  The Art of…

  • …Leadership
  • …Public Speaking
  • …Conversation
  • …Computer Programming
  • …Management
  • …Accounting…

Wait.  “Accounting?!?”  Yes.  I stumbled upon a business in Canada called The Art of Accounting.  “C’mon,” you might say.  “There is absolutely no art in accounting!”  Well, that’s what I thought too…until I read their mission statement…”Numbers tell a story.  At The Art of Accounting we specialize in interpreting the financial story for small business owners in order for them to make timely decisions and ultimately achieve their goals.” There it is.  The art.  I feel like it’s important to point out that this business and owned and operated by women.  Of course.

Based on the above mission statement and my short travels through the world wide web, folks clearly get what “art” means.  They use the phrase “The Art of…” when they want their customers to understand that they value telling important stories, making meaning, and making real connections.  “The Art of…” implies that there is a process going on – one that probably includes some struggle and some messiness – but is focused on the end goal of creating something beautiful.

So is there hope?  Does this mean that all of us artists and arts educators are incorrect whenever we complain about how no one understands us and our work?  Does this mean that all sectors of our economy actually know and value and appreciate the power of the arts in their lives and work?  Does this mean that, as artists, we can finally take our true place as wise sage in society and actually start to make a little bit of money for it?  If everybody wants “the art,” then they must also want “the artist.”  Right?

Girls and STEM: 3 Reasons We Are Going About This the Wrong Way

This year, everyone’s talking about STEM.  Specifically how we can get our girls thinking about  science,technology ,engineering and mathematics. And it’s worth talking about. No doubt there are plenty of jobs out there for computer programmers in the global economy – and not many women are currently taking them. This government report shows that women, although 50% of the workforce, make up less than 25% of STEM-related jobs.

But here’s my problem: While there are great products and services coming out of the STEM-for-girls revolution – like GoldieBlox, a building toy meant to inspire girls’ interest and confidence in engineering — many gender-equality advocates are failing to make any real difference because they are trying to fix girls rather than support them. Also, I can’t help but think that by marginalizing the arts, we are also marginalizing women’s culture – and their labor.

Continue reading

Everywhere We Blame the Mothers

On this Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think of a conversation I was in recently about girls and self-esteem where I was stunned by how much blame we put on the mothers.   Blaming the mothers for saying and doing and wearing things that “negatively impact a girl’s self esteem,” is pretty much the same thing as blaming the girls themselves.  I kept wanting to scream, “Can’t you see how women and girls are affected by the very same system?!?” Women say and do those things because we have all been brought up in a society that rejects the feminine….teaching us lies…teaching us that strong traits-like care and connection and compassion- are actually weak.  This is confusing and hurtful and is the real source of negative impact on our girls…and our boys.  This is the reason we have such a compassion deficit.

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On this Mother’s Day, I have written this poem for our mothers.

Below is the text of the poem…would love to hear what think.
What would our society look like if we actually praised mothers instead of blaming them?

Everywhere

we blame the mothers

mere humans

with the hardest job on earth

It’s so fun to pick

at their flaws

judge their choices

“I can’t believe anyone would do that…

to…their…

children!” Continue reading

How Courageous Are You?

Do you watch The Daily Show?  I love it.  I actually feel like it’s the most reliable news source out there.  I believe that art and play are the tools of compassion and so, a comedy show is the perfect venue to show us where are connected and where we are making big mistakes as a society.

I bring this up now because I am thinking a lot about courage.   Courage is a word and concept that I have come to value more and more over the years and especially lately.  Courage is to Compassion like the tea leaves are to my morning cup of tea.  Compassion literally cannot exist without Courage.  And right now, in my work and in my life, I keep seeing examples of folks choosing fear over the right action.

Back to The Daily Show, they recently produced a segment on our country’s gun control disaster – that “shameful day in Washington” was defined by the “cowards[who] defied the will of most Americans and helped the hardliners and hypocrites prevail.”  But it’s not just gun control where we aren’t stepping up.  And Senators aren’t the only cowards among us.

How many times in our work as do-gooders are we faced with opportunities to be REALLY be courageous and we don’t take it?  Have ever heard any of these statements before?  Even inside your own head?

  • “Oh my god, I can’t believe he is still talking!  These meetings are always about him.  I wish someone would say something…”
  • “Did she really just use that word?  I wonder if she offended all the people of color in room?  Should I say something…”
  • “My boss is such a jerk.  She’s such a control freak and won’t let me do anything new….”
  • “I wish I had any authority over that but that’s not really in my job description…”
  • “WE think that’s totally important but it’s our FUNDERS who are the problem.  You know, we don’t want to lose our funding…”
  • “WE think that’s totally important but the BUREAUCRACY is so messed up.  What can we do…”
  • “That sounds incredible!  But, we don’t have enough time…”
  • That sounds incredible!  But, we don’t have enough money…”
  • “That sounds incredible!  But, this is way we have always done it…so…”

I love that quote: “Hope is wishing something would happen.  Faith is believing something will happen.  Courage is making something happen.”  I have always been proud of how hopeful I am.  I always have faith that things can get better (well, most of the time).  But today, I wonder how courageous I am.  As I step out in the world today, I am sure I will presented with many opportunities to actually walk my talk.  I will notice when I take those opportunities to be courageous and when I don’t.  I invite you to join me.