Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama's victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and '80s to the hip-hop rebels of the '90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.
Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon's 1968 election sealed the backlash of the "silent majority" were community organizer and artist.
Obama was both. So why haven't community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?--Jeff Chang writes in the May 4, 2009 edition of The Nation
I won't pretend to speak for community organizers. Or artists for that matter. But I will say this. Many artists are engaged, enthralled, even moved by the opportunity to effect change. However the Office of the Presidency is a centrist collective that defines America around an abstract, advertisable notion of America. Change has permitted us to color these advertisements with a broad swatch of diversity but as a whole it's the family value meal that graces our tables.
Interestingly enough, the number of Americans who claim to be full-time artists is nearly equivalent to those who claim to be farmers (about 2 million). Real farmers, those with a isolationist view of their lifestyle and a second job in order to maintain it, have more in common with most artists than the typical farmer depicted on television. Seed corn hats, cotton print dresses, and children who respect their elders cross all demographics. People who fail to understand that are the only ones surprised to learn that courts in Iowa have upheld same-sex marriage. That said, the farmer, or at least his corporate surrogate with the K-street lobbyist, is still given a place in the national dialogue. This while the collective conscious seems to believe that artists take pride in selling their drawings on the street corner to keep themselves in cigarette and beer money.
All this could change with in a hurry with a President, or First Lady, who had the temerity to befriend artists, invite them to the White House, and give them a stage to talk about their work, what it means to them, and to America.
Everyone has to eat. That's frequently the rationale for why farmers are so important, which is true, but sadder still when when what's for dinner is so often pre-fab food. Since pre-fab America is still tottering on verge of bankruptcy let's just go ahead and bury it for good.
I propose a weekly dinner at the White House. Or a luncheon. Call it Farmers who Lunch and the Artists who Cook for them. Every week the White House kitchen is turned over to artists who then, in cooperation with small, independent farmers who grow food that isn't livestock feed, cook a meal together and following that, sit down at the table, the big kitchen table in America's White House, and discuss the matters of importance to America. The First Family, White House staff, and a rotating group of Congress are invited to join them, to listen, and to learn.
the creativity stimulus
Minnie Black, luffa sponge man.
Shawn and Clarissa Langley Family of the Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy Farm.