Why Art Will Change the World

Why Art Will Change the World
By Cary McQueen Morrow

Think back to 1989 and 1990 and all the headlines about artists funded through the National Endowments for the Arts. Robert Mappelthorpe, Andres Serrano, Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck and Holly Hughes were in the center of a huge, national debate because their work so profoundly affected some members of congress that they felt the need to pull federal funding from individual artists, indefinitely.

In 1989 and 1990 people were literally being torn apart all over the world as we as a global society worked through the Exxon Valdez disaster, Tiananmen Square, Iran-Contra, the Berlin Wall coming down, Nelson Mandella’s release and the beginning of the Persian Gulf War.

Look at the art that created the maelstrom through the lens of those current events. Piss Christ by Andres Serrano was a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in yellow liquid. Karen Finley’s performance art involved her naked body and some honey. Provocative? Maybe. Dangerous? No. The biggest threat these works had to offer was a feeling of being insulted.

Were these artists talking about Communism? About overthrowing the government? War? Apartheid? No. These works spoke to the human experience. And it caused people to question their assumptions. And that questioning was evidently so scary the government shut it down. This is the power of art. And we don’t need to be afraid. We must embrace it and allow artists to show us what’s happening in the world around us.

What we’re doing with Art With Impact is not about giving people the tools to create even more hilarious and diverting YouTube video sensations. Rather, this is about all the creative people whose voices cannot be heard for very practical, mundane reasons like lack of access to resources.

There are a bunch of American Jews out there who feel misrepresented both by the far-right AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the far-left IJAN, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. People who believe in a Jewish homeland but are opposed to settlements and ongoing violence against civilians.

But there’s no place in the dialogue for these people to voice their opinions because their message is one of moderation and peace. In a world of shouted headlines and sensationalist accusations the only way these mundane messages can be heard is through the power of personal connections, personal stories. Art and media elevate the mundane to the spiritual. And that’s why we need to hear what these people have to say. So we can find each other and work together for the greater good.

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