fdfreeDimensional is running a weekly letter from board members stating why they (we) work on behalf of its mandate to keep artists safe.  I’m recasting my letter here:

I started freeDimensional and serve on its board for a very simple set of reasons:  For all we know about artists in our communities and throughout history, we know that they don’t march by the beat of an official drum.  Thankfully, they operate ‘outside the box’ … they help us imagine new ways to ‘be’ in a fast changing world.  They inspire, they analyze, they bridge diverse groups, their alchemy can transform despair into hope and warn us when society is about to repeat a dumb mistake, thus offering us an alternative to despair.

For all we know about artists, I’ve never quite understood how the art world has not developed support mechanisms to protect its members when their intuitive strategy, individual courage, and beauty-making receive harsh (and dangerous) blowback from speaking truth to power. 

In part, I’m frustrated because the art world is slow to react in these instances, perhaps due to the perception that it does not have the tools to keep its artists safe, and that this is somehow the work of human rights organizations or the legal sector.

Fact:  Artists have been a part of changing society throughout history and rarely benefit from the safety mechanisms available to vocational activists.

Fact:  freeDimensional has a tried and tested set of tools and methods to help keep artists safe.  A recent report to the European Commission on the issue of shelter for human rights defender fleeing dangerous situations states:

“Organisations such as freeDimensional which may not be perceived as a classic human rights NGO although they work with artist-in distress and thus human rights defenders throughout the world has recently launched a best practice model of identification, needs-assessment and best-match model that they are now rolling out with their coalition partners in all continents after an initial pilot phase.”

Fact:  We need your help to build these tools bigger and stronger, and to share our methods at a scale that holds the prospect of ‘sticking around’ and being used and modified (exponentially) by culture workers in different settings and places and for a long time to come.

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pcfI actually wrote that letter on the way to the airport!  This week, I have the great pleasure to attend the awards ceremony for the Prince Claus Fund for Culture & Development.  I join in congratulating this years laureates!!  Last year, I had the honor of co-nominating (with Caron Atlas) one of the awardees, Nidia Bustos, founder of MECATE in Nicaragua.

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