Occupy with Art because the Times they are a Changin’!!

This morning I listened to Bob Dylan and cried. Yes really. Specifically I listened to “The Times they are a Changin’” I was particularly struck by these two verses:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

This is all incredibly true! The times are changing. Even now years after Dylan wrote this song. Occupy Wall St. is happening, Occupy Boston is happening, Occupy Oakland is happening again after a raid. Occupations are taking place all over the U.S. in answer to a system that is not working for the people of the nation. And where am I? I am in a café (not Starbuck’s, but still), not at a protest. And why? Because I am a student and can not live at an ‘occupy’ camp. Why else? Because the though of risking attack by the police is scary. However, would I be there if I weren’t in school? I’m pretty sure I would have at least visited. It is a little frustrating to be an artist in training and not in the world outside of Academia! Often I feel like I am gathering tools but I would be more inspired to use them if I were not constantly in a classroom. But I am excited to have and keep developing these tools once I graduate!

The first verse posted above raises interesting points about art. To me, this verse is a call to action for the writers/creators of the world to create art that interacts with the current changing times, partially to record and document the times. But it is also a caution to not set anything in stone or prophesize a specific outcome because things are still in flux. This reminds me that when people look at this moment in history from the future, they will look to the art of the times for clues. We as artists have a duty to create in these changing times! To interact, respond to, and inform what is going on!

The second verse from above reminds me that it is the artist’s job to speak truth to power (like the dramaturg does in the rehearsal process). It is our patriotic duty to change the system if it is not working, and artists seem to me to be throughout history at the forefront of change. I did some research about what art is coming out of the Occupy movement and I found some coverage of the topic on CNN, of all places.

“Art has emerged as a major vehicle for expressing the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In addition to news this week that street art from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy D.C. was being collected by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the movement’s Arts and Culture Committee showcased spoken word performances and poetry readings in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park….Let the Occupy movement’s camps and protests and marches continue generating such art — art that inspires interracial unity where it may not yet exist, art that reminds us of the voices unheard, art that galvanizes practical social change when nothing seems to give, art that, in Du Bois’ words, tries to make the world both beautiful and right.
-Michele Elam

I did some more research on the Arts and Culture Committee for the movement. I found that it was founded because “Before social practices change we need to change the underlying culture and art is such a powerful tool for that.” There are many arts project stations at the protests across the nation, giving people a creative outlet in which to express themselves and have their voices heard. And ANYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE, even from far away. So any artist who wants to can send in their art. Here’s how:

“There are two main ways that artists can contribute. The first is through virtual territory. They can send us links to their artworks, music, paintings to our Twitter feed #occupywithart.
We also have a feed that goes the other way, #occupiedwithart, that focuses on the art being created here at the protest. [Editors note: It appears that both feeds are still underway, but the group has been organizing to get them started].
Artists can also send us their ideas to arts_culture@nycga.net and we’ll put up your poetry reading or performance. Just tell us what is it, when, where and any needs that you have and we’ll try to make it happen.” (From Above Website, look there for more info)

This has inspired me to begin to create art in dialogue (directly or indirectly) with our political situation! But then again, if all art is a product of its time, what art isn’t involved in the dialogue! Creators this is a call to arms to create!

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