Outrage to Change: Support BIPOC Artists
(BIPOC, Black Indigenous People of Color)
We hit our original $3000 goal at 4 pm on Friday, June 5th, which will fund 6 artists from the campaign money and 1 artist directly from the Octagon. This is awesome, but I want to keep this campaign rolling:
And challenge you to fund AS MANY ARTISTS AS WE CAN by Juneteenth.
Not familiar with Juneteenth? On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to enslaved African Americans in Texas, the last confederate state to receive official notice. Celebrated as early as 1866, the day is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day. But this 'freedom' as we know through Jim Crow, segregation, and police brutality, has never really been realized / relinquished / experienced.
So we are going to run this campaign to fund as many black-identifying artists as possible through midnight on June 19th -- 155 years after enslaved African Americans were legally freed.
Since May 25th, the day that George Floyd was asphyxiated by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I have been struggling...
*What could I do? What could I say?
*Do I post my outrage and resources along with those in my circle on social media?
*How do I stand in solidarity with people of color?
*What would actually have a positive impact on this situation?
*Does any of this actually do any good to help the world understand that Black people (and other people of color) deserve the same rights and quality of life / the same humanity as white people?
All of these questions and ideas have overwhelmed me. Being white and not understanding how I can support / help / lift up / be in solidarity / what even is the right verb to use here?
After some thought, some of my own bad ideas, a few good resources online written by black people for white people, and some tough conversation with colleagues and friends, I realized that I was asking the wrong questions. The question that I needed to answer was not what to do or what to say, but how can I use my whiteness (my positionality) to amplify the voices of people of color and call my white peers to action? How can I use my whiteness "to mobilize to raise awareness” as President Obama suggested?
Once I (we) reoriented the question, I (we) realized that I (we) do have something to offer.
The Octagon Center for the Arts is a little non-profit art center in Iowa. It is run by a passionate and empathetic staff that strive to do their best all the time, me included. We believe in a few very important values. First, we should support artists in as many ways as possible, because art matters; it heals and empowers. Second, we believe that life is better when it is diverse and when everyone is included. Third, we believe that art is vital, because it asks questions (sometimes really tough, hard-to-answer questions about all aspects of life) and demonstrates so many different perspectives. During our conversation, we realized that a message about the past week’s events, from us, is not as impactful as using our platform to support and bring attention to the work of Black artists expressing their hope, pain, frustration, and authentic self.
So my colleagues and I can offer three things:
1) Space. The space to host an artist of color to share their message / to ask their questions / to be pissed / to call out racism / to push us (white people) to see and do things differently. Space. That is what we can offer.
2) Coordination. I, with my colleagues' support, coordinate gallery shows for my job. We can reach out to other businesses to host artists. We can reach out to artists of color who can connect us with other artists of color. Coordination. That is what we can offer.
3) Money. As part of the mission at the Octagon, we believe that the value that artists add to everyday life is vital, and as such, artists should be paid for their work. Money. That is what we can offer with your help.
And so, that gets us to this crowdfunding goal. Believe me, I get it. Money is tight right now. Our art center has been closed since March 14th, and we have hardly had any income over the past ten weeks. Many of our Main Street businesses and restaurants, in Ames, are closed completely or only offering curbside pickup. This pandemic is hurting so many.
BUT this outrage must lead to real change. And at the Octagon, we do not just want to talk the talk. We are trying to walk the walk by supporting artists of color in sharing their messages with our community. Can you help us with this goal?
We want to pay each artist $500 for their time, materials, and emotional effort to create a piece of artwork. For each $500 raised, we plan to pair one artist with one business window host in downtown Ames. We hope to raise enough money to support 6 BIPOC artists, but we will support as many artists as possible based on the money you give in time for this pop-up show to open by July 1, 2020.
Are you a business on Main Street who wants to host an artist of color? Reach out to us at the Octagon.
Any little bit helps. And lots of little bits gets us there. “Let’s get to work.”
Octagon Center for the Arts