Arts and Social Justice: Staying Resilient in Challenging Times


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In October 2012, the Social Justice Artists' Collaborative (SJAC) conducted a survey on arts practices and support networks to capture information about sustainability. This report highlights information about individual artists and arts organizations working toward social justice in New York City as well as the networks we utilize for support.

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Arts and Social Justice: Staying Resilient in Challenging Times

  1. 1. ARTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICESTAYING RESILIENT IN CHALLENGING TIMESReport Findings by Survey Design by theIrini Neofotistos, Senior Program Officer, Union Square AwardsAmanda Warco, Research Intern, Union Square Awards
  2. 2. About SJAC:The Social Justice Artists’ Collaborative (SJAC) was launched in 2010 as apassionate call out for a grassroots network dedicated to building the powerand sustainability of individual artists, small to mid-size arts organizationsbased in New York City, and creative communities invested in change.SJAC is now a growing progressive collective of people and organizationsthat comes together to learn, share, dialogue, connect, and evolve thecapacities of arts and cultural practitioners to thrive on our own terms.Our goals are to: • Build community among arts organizations and artists engaged in social justice; • Strategize around challenges and explore long-term solutions; • Create new sustainability models; • Offer platforms and venues for sharing best practices and innovations; & • Foster new partnerships and creative fusions.
  3. 3. About the survey:To learn what issues are affecting us most as a community, SJACrecently conducted a survey of artists and arts organizations acrossthe City. This report shares what we found.This survey was released by the SJAC and received 157 responsesbetween October 11 and 31, 2012.Outreach was done by SJAC work group members who shared it withothers through social media, the SJAC outreach email list, and theirnetworks.
  4. 4. KEY FINDINGSBridging Arts and Social JusticeArts and social justice work raises visibility, gives voice and createsengagement and interaction.Important to those doing this work is uniting communities, empoweringindividuals, developing opportunities to create and express, and providingaccess to the arts.Resources and NetworksBeing connected to others with similar values is important. A vast majorityconfirm they are connected to others that share their values.While most respondents have the tools needed to be effective and knowwhere to turn to for needed resources, a significant number do not have asupport network they can rely on.
  5. 5. KEY FINDINGSFinancial ResourcesRespondents found skills or resource sharing, individual donor engagementand grassroots fundraising to be effective sustainability approaches.70% of respondents have accessed grants to support their work. Ofthose, half report they no longer have access to resources they have reliedon in the past.Top 4 ChallengesAccessing Financial ResourcesReliable Support NetworksTime and CapacityFraming and Promoting Work
  7. 7. HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITHIN THEARTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMUNITY? 32% of respondents80% chose more than one70% response60%50%40%30%20%10%0% artist arts other service provider funder administrator 157 responses
  8. 8. HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITHIN THEARTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMUNITY? Other Identities 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 activist organizer educator
  9. 9. PLEASE INDICATE YOUR ARTISTIC DISCIPLINE:60%50%40%30%20%10%0% Visual Arts Media/ Theater Literature/ Conceptual/ Music Dance Other New media Creative Performance writing Art Other Disciplines 46% of respondents 6% chose more than 4% one response 2% 0% Multi-Disciplinary Poetry 157 responses
  10. 10. WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING TERMS DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH YOUR PRACTICE, IF ANY? I.E., YOU WOULD FEEL COMFORTABLE USING THEM TO DESCRIBE YOUR PRACTICE. Social Change -3% 93%Community Arts -7% 89% Social Justice -5% 85% Public Art -14% 79% Social Practice -10% 76% Other 12% -0.2 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 Disagree Agree 130 responses
  11. 11. I USE MY PRACTICE AS A WAY OF CREATING: The top two areas of agreement are that respondents use their practice as a way of community building and responses to social issues. Mostly Agree:100%80%60%40%20% 0% Community Responses A Broader Civic Call to Beauty Visibility for Building to Social Definition of Engagement Action Myself and Issues the Arts Others Agree Somewhat Disagree 130 responses
  12. 12. I USE MY PRACTICE AS A WAY OF CREATING: Split Opinion: Healing -14% 88% Outreach Tools -16% 80% Political Expression -24% 70% Organizing Tools -24% 68%Training Opportunities -25% 68% Political Education -25% 69%Political Engagement -24% 68% Rehabilitative Tools -34% 56% Other -4% 12% -40% -20% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Disagree Agree Political Education, Political Engagement and Rehabilitative Tools were the most contested terms with larger numbers of respondents choosing “Somewhat Agree” or “Disagree.” “Other” responses included conversations, dialogue, attention, connection, and expression. 130 responses
  14. 14. PLEASE ELABORATE ON YOUR CHOICES ABOVE OR SHARE OTHER LANGUAGE YOU USE TO CHARACTERIZE EITHER YOUR WORK OR PRACTICE.Individual responses that were especially interesting, challenging orrepresentative: “Our mission is to celebrate our culture through the arts and educate people about our diversity. Cultural identity is very important to an individual formation in life. The arts can give people a great motivation in other fields.” “Feel that it is important to manage artist currently incarcerated, to help motivate and prepare them to be self sufficient and come come to make legal money to support their families.” “The choices seem to frame publicly presented/socially engaged work within a binary frame of either "romantic" art practice that occurs in the public sphere (beauty, sublime, grandeur, ego, et al) v. the social practice school. Both are problematic. I would like to see categories from another set of questions, like the categories one would ask bankers or lawyers or deep sea divers.”
  15. 15. PLEASE ELABORATE ON YOUR CHOICES ABOVE ORSHARE OTHER LANGUAGE YOU USE TOCHARACTERIZE EITHER YOUR WORK OR PRACTICE.“I prefer the concept of community engagement to outreach to reflect mutually beneficialcollaborations. I also think of my work as part of broader efforts to engage people in the decisionmaking that has in impact on their lives. And I think of my work as cross sector and holistic -recognizing how culture is integrated throughout our communities.”“Art responds to social, community, and personal issues but is also responsive to community andindividual needs. The practices and outlets created cultivate a more equitable and justsociety, particularly where those resources do not otherwise exist. I have some resistance to the termshealing, therapeutic or rehabilitative. As a conscious person, I feel responsible to name, connect, andaddress what is not right in a way that is challenging, engages, and visions/creates somethingnew, effective, and just. That process by its nature creates personal and collective healing. Lastly, whileit is true that arts can create powerful tools for outreach, organizing, education, they are not a means toan end. If the art is meant to produce those outcomes then some of its power is lost. Connection tocommunity and the process of creating or sharing in a collective way is critically important.”
  16. 16. DESCRIBE THE COMMUNITIES YOU WORK IN AND/ORIDENTIFY WITH. Immigrants, African- LBGTQ, 1 4 American, 6 3 Youth, 18 Latinos, 6People of Artists, 15 Seniors, 5Color, 11 Asian, 3 Women, 1 1
  17. 17. DESCRIBE THE COMMUNITIES YOU WORK IN AND/ORIDENTIFY WITH. Specified Need or Issue Area International, 3 Educators, 2 Incarcerated/ Families of Incarcerated, 3 AIDS/HIV, 4 Low-income/ Underserved Communities, 22 Homeless, 6 Occupy Movement, 2 Local Neighborhoods, 1 3 Other nonprofits, 2 Disabled, 2 SurvivorsAbuse, 1
  18. 18. WHAT TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONS OR NETWORKS ARE YOUCONNECTED TO WITHIN IN YOUR COMMUNITY?Types Included: Arts Councils CBOs Churches Community Boards Community Gardens Elected Officials Galleries Grassroots Organizations Libraries Museums Non-profits See Appendix A for list Schools of organizations cited. Senior Centers Social Service Agencies Union Organizers YMCAs
  19. 19. BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR WORK AND HOW IT BRIDGES ARTSAND SOCIAL JUSTICE.Main Theme #1: “To raise visibility and give a voice.”Main Theme #2: “To create engagement and interaction.”Other prevalent themes: – uniting communities – empowering individuals – opportunities to create and express – providing access to art. See Appendix B for clarifying quotes.
  20. 20. ARE THERE SHARED CHARACTERISTICS FOR THE WORKTHAT HAPPENS AT THE INTERSECTION OF ARTS ANDSOCIAL JUSTICE? IF SO, BRIEFLY DESCRIBE SOMECOMMONALITIES.There was a wide range of answers to this question with similarthemes emerging as in the previous question, such as• Creating a voice for the voiceless• Offering new perspectives• Bringing together people within and across communities• Sparking conversations• Creating respect, empathy and understanding• Advocating for change• Self determination and expression• Tell a story• Educate
  21. 21. RANGING FROM "OFTEN" TO "RARELY" PLEASE ANSWERTHE QUESTIONS BELOW:100%80%60%40%20% 0% I am connected I have I have the tools I know where to I have a support to others that opportunities to needed to be turn to for network(s) that I share my values grow and effective needed can rely on develop resources Often Sometimes Rarely It is important for people working at this intersection to connect with others sharing their values. The vast majority of respondents report being connected to others that share their values. While most respondents report that they have the tools needed to be effective and they know where to turn to for needed resources, a significant number report that they rarely have a support network to rely on. 84 responses
  22. 22. DESCRIBE OR LIST ANY ACTIVITIES THAT YOU UNDERTAKEFOR YOUR OWN WELL-BEING OR SELF-CARE. Eating well and making home cooked meals. Exercise “It is a constant struggle.” Yoga Prayer/Mediation Creating art. Reading/Writing Time with Family and Friends Connecting with like-minded individuals
  23. 23. HOW DO YOU SUPPORT YOUR PRACTICE IN TERMS OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES?80%70%60%50%40%30%20%10%0% Grants Artist Fees/ Residencies to Sales/ Donors Consultations and Services Employment Commissions Employment Other Honoraria Develop Work Earned Income Related to Practice Unrelated to Practice Often/Sometimes Rarely 80 responses
  24. 24. ARE THERE FINANCIAL RESOURCES THAT ARE NO LONGERAVAILABLE TO YOU? 51% of those responding to this question60% reported losing foundation support.50%40%30% 51%20%10% 12% 12% 12%0% Foundation Lost Government Individual Support Job/Income Grants Donors 41 responses
  25. 25. EFFECTIVENESS OF SUSTAINABILITY APPROACHES.Most Effective:• Skill or Resource Sharing – A third of respondents indicate this as the most effective. 33% or respondents found it effective and 29% found it somewhat effective.• Individual Donor Engagement was found effective for 23% of respondents and somewhat effective for about 40% or respondents.• Grassroots Fundraising was found effective for 13% of respondents and somewhat effective for 40%.Under Utilized or With Mixed Reviews:• Online Crowd Funding was reported to be the least used overall. Only 4% of respondents found it effective, 25% found it somewhat effective, and 17% found it not effective.
  26. 26. WHAT ARE SPECIFIC ISSUES OR CHALLENGES YOUFACE THAT CURRENT NETWORKS ARE UNABLE TORESPOND TO?1) Funding –By far the most frequently mentioned challenge was sustainable financialsupport. Many respondents mentioned not having health care as aspecific financial concern and several respondents spoke about theburden of applying for grants and meeting their administrativerequirements. Several respondents spoke about the misunderstanding oftheir work and the reluctance of artists and funders to get involved inwork with a political/social justice dimension.2) Network/Community –The second most frequently mentioned concern was a lack of a networkto turn to for advice, resource sharing and support.
  27. 27. WHAT ARE SPECIFIC ISSUES OR CHALLENGES YOUFACE THAT CURRENT NETWORKS ARE UNABLE TORESPOND TO? 3) Lack of Time – Several people mentioned not having adequate time and being stretched too thin to accomplish all the necessary work. 4) Publicity/Promotion – A number of respondents struggle with publicizing and promoting their events especially when they often have to reframe their work for various audiences. Other: Shared rehearsal and performance space and shared legal assistance.
  28. 28. SJAC IS GROWING. WHAT CAN WE COUNT ON YOU FOR?• 26 respondents said they would offer resources to the collaborative or its participants including – • Leading workshops about food politics, environment, animal and people communities, the politics of transportation or the politics of the built environment, etc. • Resources from Arts & Democracy and NOCD-NY - not financial, but materials, approaches, workshops, and lessons learned • Sharing information with social networks • Collaborating on projects. • Providing event/meeting space.• 19 respondents could host future events• 29 respondents are interested in joining the work group to further shape the collaborative• 54 are interested in participating in future networking opportunities
  29. 29. WORK GROUP MEMBERSThe organizations & individuals that have shaped the Social Justice Artists’Collaborative are:Clarla Eliana Godoy Languna - Art for ChangeCharles Rice-Gonzalez & Arthur Aviles - Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!)Erin Gleason - Crown Heights Film FestivalMeghan McDermott - Global Action Project (GAP)Michael Primo - Hip-Hop Theater FestivalShannon Brunette - Lambent FoundationKay Tekada & Prachi Pa - Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC)Jessica Green - Maysles InstituteSandra Garcia-Betancourt - Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA)Karen Demavivas - NYFA Immigrant Artist ProjectKemi Illesanmi, Petrushka Basin, Rise Wilson - The Laundromat ProjectIrini Neofotistos & Iris Morales - Union Square AwardsBeatriz Gil, Leenda Bonilla, Carlos Martinez, Elizabeth Hamby, & Hatuey RamosFermin Individual Artists
  30. 30. APPENDIX A: WHAT TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONS ORNETWORKS ARE YOU CONNECTED TO WITHIN IN YOURCOMMUNITY? 50/50 in 2020 Columbia University ACNY Community Services Society Actors Equity Association Cooper Union Astraea Foundation District Committee for Participatory Budgeting Barnard College Diversity Council at Kean University Bella Abzug Leadership Institute Doors Youth Betty Shabazz Center Ecology Station Brooklyn BRIC Eldert Street Community Garden Broadway Housing Communities Feminist Press Bronx AIDS Services Flomenhaft Gallery Bronx Artisans Initiative Fresh Ground Pepper Bronx Arts Group Gay Mens Chorus Bronx Council on the Arts Greenlight District El Puente Bronx Economic Development Groundswell Community Mural Harlem Arts Alliance Bronx Non Profit Coalition Bronx Price Hendricks Martin Institute HERE Arts Center Brooklyn Food Conference Hispanic AIDS Forum Brooklyn Friends Humans Rights Association Campaign to End the Death Penalty Independent School Diversity Network Catskills Heritage Alliance INSPIRIT Center for Urban Pedagogy Jewish Genealogy Society Choral Consortium of NYC Slide 1 of 2
  31. 31. APPENDIX A: WHAT TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONS OR NETWORKS ARE YOU CONNECTED TO WITHIN IN YOUR COMMUNITY? NOMAA Third Wave FoundationJewish Voice for Peace Northern Manhattan Coalition forJustseeds United Palace for Cultural Immigrant RightsLa Union Arts Odyssey HouseLavender Light Voice Male Magazine On the Issues MagazineLeslie Lohman Museum of Park Slope Food Coop West End Collegiate ChurchGay Contemporary Art Peoples Institute for Survival West Village Society forLIC Artists and Beyond Historic PreservationLongwood Arts Gallery Pepatian Women of Color PolicyMake the Road Pergones Theater NetworkMan Up Campaign Pipeline Theater Company Womens EnewsMen Can Stop Rape Queer Urban Orchestra Word Up BookstoreMental Health Association of New Jersey SAG-AFTRA WOW Café TheaterMetropolitan Community Church SAGEMorris Jumel Mansion Social Justice High SchoolMotel Room Studios Bushwick CampusMothers on the Move Start Small Think BigMountain Keepers Studio 889Mural Arts The DreamYard ProjectNational Council for Research on Women The Feminist Art ProjectNational Organization for The House of Spoof CollectiveMen Against Sexism The LGBT CenterNew Brooklyn Theater The New Jim CrowNew York Foundation for the Arts The Point CDCNOCD-NY The Tank Slide 2 of 2
  32. 32. APPENDIX B: BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR WORK AND HOW IT BRIDGES ARTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE.“Working as an art therapist with under represented persons allows for communitiesto be heard. Themes for the artwork includes communities perceptions (how they arebeing seen and how they want to be seen) and advocacy. We exhibit artwork in thecommunity (e.g., pop up galleries, court buildings, and small shows amongst peers)as a way to practice sharing their knowledge with others.”“With each of our free programs, we strive to offer safe and creative platform for ourcommunity members to share their voice and struggles. As a community, they now havea space where they can share with the world their own stories through the creation oforiginal social justice theatre that brings focus and attention to issues they are affectedby.”“Work with "At-Risk-Young People" using art to build a connection between them andtheir community. Created intergenerational art programs where young people andelders work together to create an art project, in a effort to close the gap between thegenerations, so that they can talk to each other. Once they can hear and share whatthe others needs are, we can begin to work towards removing the social illnessesrunning through our communities.” Slide 1 of 2
  33. 33. APPENDIX B: BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR WORK AND HOW IT BRIDGES ARTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE.“We give educators tools to engage in conversations about race with their students inkindergarten through fifth grade. We use role-play to allow the participants to practicewhat they would say if they were in certain real-life scenarios.”“The location and time of my media/performances is intended to intersect withdemographics that may be at that location at that time; I find people who might not beculture vultures to be a more interesting viewer than the galleristas.”“Social Practice, is the utilization of an artists art form welded with an intellectual, research andexperiment based production which seeks to make work that is relevant in the social realm.Historically, I have vehemently asserted that artists need to regain their position at the forefront ofsocial, critical, and technological innovation, right alongside scientists and academics. I feel it iscritically important to reinvest our intellectual practice within the art realm, in order to dovetail theinnovation that art allows with the critically important aspects of the scientific and academic realms.Without the innovation possible within the art mindset, science can be stifled by restrictive academicdogma. Without the intellectual heft of science and academic importance, I feel art can be doomed tosocial irrelevance. In this critical time in world history, without a concerted effort to unite innovatorsacross disciplines, I feel the incredibly complex issues and problems we are facing as a nation, as apeople, and as a planet will not be adequately addressed or properly and comprehensively solved.” Slide 2 of 2