While we were at the DNC WTV was lucky enough to have cosponsored an amazing event put on by Rock the Vote called Truth to Power. At this hub one could view artwork inspired by social justice and attend panels discussing some our nations most prominent problems. For me the art work was more than just breathtaking, it was a reminder of the many forms power can take place.
The entire space itself was a piece of art, each room flowing into the next, the lighting dim but shining in the right places. Music was filling the wooden floors and high ceilings (DJ’ed by a 12 year old now less), and every inch of wall was covered with inspiring messages. The creativity and the gravity of the messages that were being sent were chilling. Pieces about police brutality, the criminal justice system, sexual assault, racism, immigration and more were all displayed in an array of creative paintings, sculptures, and posters.
One of my favorite pieces was “Identity Crisis” by Michael Murphy. In a thought provoking sculpture, Murphy hung together a string of guns to create the shape of America. Hung directly in front of the entrance below the words “ Every day an average of 112 people are killed or injured by gun violence I America” you cannot miss it. This piece beautifully puts together how our nation isn’t just filled with guns (literally and figuratively) but it is fundamentally built with and made by guns and the violence that follows. But what is even more outstanding about this piece is when you move to the side, suddenly the picture that is formed by the hanging guns is a singular handgun pointed ready to shoot. The message is clear and it is very powerful. Our great nation, when looked at from a different angle is nothing more than a gun ready to shoot. At whom is the gun pointed? I am unsure, though we can all probably guess.
Another powerful painting, titled “It Stops with Cops” by Michael Dantuono, depicts the responsibility and accountability we must hold for all our officers. It shows one cop beating a black man in cuffs, while another cop from behind grabs the baton from the first cop. The message is rather simple. To simply be a “good cop” is not enough. For every “bad cop” there is, there must be a “good cop” ready to intervene. We must take responsibility for those on the force that are unlawfully brutalizing our victims. The painting itself holds a deeper message though. Most obviously is how the shadow behind them is actually not reflective of the actions happening. Instead, the shadow shows the baton already in the hands of the “good cop” and out of the ands of the “bad cop”. This is important. To simply grab the weapon of brutality is not the same as removing it and taking it away. It is the hardest reality we must achieve, and it lurks in the shadows behind each of us and every action we choose.
Art is an incredible tool for social justice. It is expressive, it is bold, and it is honest. Art has been used since the beginning of any movement to capture moments, to share a scene, and to depict a message. Art used for social justice is extremely powerful and is a tool that everyone can use. It doesn’t have to be in the form of traditional art either. And you don’t even have to be an “artist” to do it. Art is expressive of true emotions. If it inspires people, if it moves people, and if it makes people feel something then it is art. And to create powerful art, that can not only move but mobilize is in itself a whole other art.