Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash

“Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.”
—John Dewey

The art we create can be a catalyst, a tipping point, or even a spark to a flame inside of those in our community. The community just needs to experience our art. That is why I think it is important for artists to collaborate with each other. It is why I think that it is important for artists to collaborate with folks and organizations doing community-minded work. We can’t wait for the call from them for a commissioned piece or an invitation to share at an event. We know the impact art can have. We should seek them out for partnership. To envision something larger than an accent on a moment. To build something deeper.

There are people in the community doing great work on the ground. Hunt for them. Reach out. Go check out something on their calendar. See if they are a fit for you. If not, then check for the next group, organizer, or organization. If you can’t find anything, mine your network. See if anyone knows of folks. Even if they are in a neighboring area, they can often tell you who is working in your city. They can sometimes give you insight into the history of that work in your community and why there isn’t anyone doing that work now. A lot of times someone was doing it and something happened. That can be helpful to know. If any of those folks are still in town, then you might want to meet them and see what is possible. There is a story there.

Sometimes we feel like we have a sense of what is going on, but many of these folks don’t have huge marketing budgets. Many work under the radar. They may not be known but they have an impact. The work they do matters to who they serve and they are committed day in and day out. They could benefit from working with us, having art at their disposal. We could benefit from working with them and placing our art with folks who need it. The community will benefit from seeing the issue in a new way and hearing new stories. There is so much potential there.

The anger, frustration, hurt, and bitterness that folks face in these times are real. There are those moments we scream out for a collective “we,” and I get it. It’s a rallying cry. It’s a disruption to the bubble we can get caught in navigating our own lives. It is one of the reasons that demonstrations still have a place in our society. It is a gathering place for folks who feel the same heaviness. I say that art activities and events are also gathering places. A place for those who feel the same heaviness. Not only that, but it is also a place to gather and remember joy, resilience, and overcoming. It is a place for dreams and affirmations, celebration, and remembrance. It can be an inspiration or a call to action.

Partners are waiting to work with you. They just don’t know how to make it happen. We don’t have to wait until they figure it out. We can reach out. We can let them know we are willing to sit at the table and figure out it together. You have a gift, they have an understanding, and you both have a purpose. You see and feel what the people around you are going through. It is in the art you create. They see and work in the midst of what the people around them are going through. It is in their hearts to affect change.

They can use your help. So find the folks you want to work with. Dig in. Remember self-care. Remember balance. Remember that you are deserved of saying “yes” and “no.”

A lot of times we see a need and a possibility and either try to put something together ourselves. Sometimes we are paralyzed by the fact that we aren’t in a position to do the thing. You don’t have to be the one to pull it all together. You can take your thoughts to folks and build collaboration. You are going to find folks who can see what you envision, place it in the right context, and help execute it effectively.

That’s a way to build the collective “we” that we need to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be all at once. It doesn’t have to be at our expense of ourselves. It doesn’t have to be grand and expansive. It just has to happen. Every step is part of a march toward the tomorrow we want to see.

I see it. We can do it. Let’s take this art out and help shape the world.

Dasan Ahanu