Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on a conference call with folks from the National Endowment for the Arts (Yosi Sergant) , The White House Office of Public Engagement (Buffy Wicks) and the United We Serve team (Nel Abernathy) among many others. The call was hosted by Michael Skolnik, Political Director to Russell Simmons and Editor for the politics section of GlobalGrind.
The topic was the role that artists can play in
shaping communities with particular focus on plans for 9/11, a new National Day
of Service and Remembrance.
The idea is to find ways that artists can help spread the message of service and also highlight the service work that artists already perform in communities nationwide.
United We Serve
The United We Serve (UWS) project began June 22 and runs through September 11. The hope is to encourage people to volunteer in their local communities, not just for a day, but in a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans. The challenge is to translate participation in electoral politics into engagement with governing. UWS sees service as a way to do this. The United We Serve project is a way to see what’s going on in our local community and connect with local non-profits, local city officials, women’s groups, unions, you name it. The key is sustained relationships to deal with issues. Nel Abernathy talked about using many of the same tools that were used in the presidential campaign, noting that when asked and you give people tools, they will participate. Now UWS is asking people to do what they are doing, but more effectively, and at the same time to recognize that what they are doing is not isolated but part of a larger community. The focus of the project was narrowed down to four main issues people are facing:
- Energy and Environment
- Community renewal
Artists as thought leaders
Because artists are often thought leaders and help direct people to “what’s cool and what’s not”, they have a unique opportunity to help support this project. One of the goals of the group is to create a stronger community among artists, continuing to do things we are passionate about, and encourage people to participate at the local level.
How artists can participate:
The arts community is so powerful in telling stories. Art
grabs people who don’t necessarily read the local paper. Do what we do.
Participation means whatever you want it to mean.
In the same way that the Obama political campaign was successful by providing tools and letting people do their own thing, The UWS campaign is asking people to do the same thing. “We do our local thing, but in a national context”.
3 Things we can do
- Look at serve.gov
- Look for projects to do
- Post your projects
- Tell stories
- Take photos
- Take videos
- Post blogs
- “This is a community that knows how to make a stink”
- Encourage others to get engaged
- Pick something from one of the 4 key areas and bring your artistic creativity and utilities to the table.
Thomas Bates from Rock the Vote, talked about an example project with Cody Hudson in Chicago focusing on the environment. They are engaging young people to collect ‘garbage’, and create something of a community monument of public art out of the found materials.
I think it would be great for the Mighty United Artists to find a way to showcase the art that everyone is doing that relates to this. A new section on the serve.gov site???