At this morning's Cinema Café "On Art and Culture," pair the slightly cynical Danny "I'm wary of community" Perez, director of ODDSAC, with James "I have to be an eternal optimist" Kass of the Youth Speaks organization, sandwich it with readings from two inspiring young poets (Carvens Lissaint and Simone Crew), throw in a little Tamra Davis (director of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child) and moderator Jon Korn and you come out with an illuminated and somewhat divergent perspective on the future of arts and culture in America.
Thoughts flew around the panel about how best to offer artistic and cultural outlets and foster creativity in the young people of this country. James Kass's Youth Speaks program works to bring the arts to young people, to give them "the opportunity for their art to be heard and have impact." Kass says that they want to transform "fear and silence into power and voice." Danny Perez feels the same need for some sort of transformative quality of arts and culture in our society: "Just to arouse a reaction is a valuable enterprise."
And they aren't talking about just for now, but for the future. Perez loves the idea of creating something that will last longer than him, but worries that the system that's set up to support the arts is failing, and there are "plenty of ideas not able to get out because of the constraints of the system." It's been like this for a while: Tamra Davis remarked that Jean-Michel Basquiat was rejected because it didn't look like everything else, or like it came from anything else.
Having the Youth Speaks group present was a great diversion, a glimmer of inspiration that maybe it won't always be this way. Hearing their words reminded us all that, as Kass said, "everybody is creating; privilege is who gets to be heard."
Photo by Zan McQuade