We can turn to the arts to create lasting social change
At a time when it can seem as though our country is more divided than ever, it’s invigorating to connect with creative people working tirelessly to unify our communities rather than divide them. I was among hundreds of artists, changemakers and social justice leaders in the philanthropy and arts sectors, including activist and poet Hanna Drake, arts activist and writer Shanai Matteson, theater artist and playwright Marty Pottenger and many more of the art world’s movers and shakers at the 2020 ArtPlace Summit celebrating the arts and investing in them to make our communities better, fairer places to live.
Launched nearly a decade ago, ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a collaboration of artists, foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions working together to strengthen the field of creative placemaking — using the arts and culture to drive community change. The community has gathered annually since 2013 to connect and share ideas for leveraging the power of creativity to address racism, poverty, displacement, and so many other injustices our communities face. The arts have always had the ability to strongly influence community-led change, and ArtPlace has served as a foothold in the arts space to move this mission forward. This was my first time attending the summit, and I was incredibly impressed with the organization, engagement, caliber of sessions, ways to interact with each other and what an incredible safe space ArtPlace created for people to show up as their full selves.
During my session “Giving Circles: We Can All Be Philanthropists”, I spoke with two graduates of Philanthropy Together’s Launchpad For You program, Adam Erickson and Irfana Jetha Noorani, about the power of giving circles and their impact on creative community development. With five colleagues from across the country, Adam and Irfana recently launched Vital Little Plans — an artist collective and giving circle that supports equitable, creative and vital plans that are arts-driven and community-led for neighborhoods and places. Vital Little Plans is grounded in the belief that artist communities can lead systemic change. During our panel, Adam, who is also a member of the ArtPlace America leadership team, emphasized the importance of giving in the artist community. Artists are on the front lines of driving community change. By investing in small, artist-led collaboratives, we can leverage their efforts to affect long-term social change driven by and for communities.
One of my favorite moments from the summit was when Vital Little Plans met and exceeded its fundraising goal — while Adam was in the middle of presenting! Clearly, his message resonated with the audience.
This year’s ArtPlace summit came together at a time when community connection through the arts is more important than ever. Communities are continuing to grapple with COVID-19, a national reckoning on racial justice, and an election that has exposed our country’s most deeply-rooted divisions. My conversation with Adam and Irfana was invigorating and I am inspired by how they turn to the arts to make our communities healthier, safer, and more joyful and equitable. Like they do through Vital Little Plans, now is the time for all of us to address the issues facing our communities. Let’s get to work.
To learn more about Vital Little Plans and support their critical work, head here.