Art as activator.
This past weekend, I attended Adrienne Maree Brown’s talk at the Detroit Public Library main branch. She read from her newest book Pleasure Activism; both passages she’d selected as well as ones that members of the audience requested. Then, there was a Q and A where Brown spoke about everything from her own healing process to how she holds anger in her work to ways that white folx can engage with pleasure activism.
Brown’s words and presence were delightful and refreshing. She exudes the kind of joy and playfulness that can only come from someone who has spent time in dark and painful places. When reading from her book, she wove in footnotes and stories in a way that was artful and humorous. Brown is the embodiment of the Toni Cade Bambara quote she later shared: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.”
I went to Adrienne Maree Brown’s talk with my creative soul twin and afterwards we sat in a cafe and talked about how pleasure factors into the show that we’re writing. This week, we begin our collaboration in earnest and we are now thinking in terms of our character’s relationship to pleasure as well as our own within this creative process. We believe deeply in the work that we’re doing and are also not interested in having it cannibalize us.
For as long as I’ve identified as an artist/writer/creative, I’ve thought of art as something scarce. There’s a limit to who gets to make it, consume it, and profit off of it. I am wrong, thank goodness, and this narrative still permeates so much of our culture. Art is either frivolous or so valuable it’s untouchable. There’s very little space for the nuance and abundance that exists in the space between those two extremes.
Hearing Brown talk about what she calls “The Movement”—as in, the social/racial/economic justice movement—I was reminded of the layers that are present within any collective change that we are trying to create. On the one hand, the role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible. On the other hand, there are so many artists whom I personally know struggling to claim their identity as an artist and find time to make the art that our world so desperately needs.
Who makes making art irresistible to artists who are burnt out and tired? Who guides them back to creating in a world that offers such little space and grace for them to do that? How do we remind our fellow artists that we don’t need to choose between making our art and eating? If artists are the ones who will make the revolution irresistible, then surely we need as many artists as possible doing their work.
I don’t have any answers at the moment. At the same time, I am hopeful that my work as a coach will help to support artists in returning to and/or expanding upon their creative practices. As our world spirals into deeper and deeper chaos around us, creating art is starting to feel like the only thing that makes sense anymore. So if it is our job to make the revolution irresistible, let’s do that while also waking others up to their own creative potential.
So, how are you making the revolution irresistible as a creative?