Author, activist Ken Grossinger to appear at Explore Booksellers on Sunday
Is the collaboration between artists and community activists the untapped secret to creating and cementing social change? According to author and activist Ken Grossinger’s new book, “Art Works: how Organizers and Artists are Creating a Better World Together,” the answer is yes.
“The book focuses on collaboration between artists and activists and the impact of those collaborations as distinct from books about art and politics, which focus on the power of art, focus on the power of mobilization, but don’t link the actors together,” he said. “One of my arguments is that art is not just a reflection or a reaction to social change, but a contributor to it.”
He cites examples from history to the present day, including Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the Hip Hop Caucus, the Legacy Museum, and the Art for Justice Fund to make his case. He also breaks down tactics and successes that activists and artists have employed to take on the challenges of today’s political climate.
Another argument he makes in the book is that, while political progress and legislative reforms can be made due to lobbying, advocacy, protests, and social movements, once power shifts from left to right, those gains often get rolled back.
“The reason for that is that we never addressed the narratives underlying those fights,” he said. “What we do is change the hands of politicians, national, state, and local, but we don’t change the values and attitudes of the electorate. We can’t change the narrative about these fights without the artists, and we can apply the political pressure of these sites without the organizers. So when organizers and artists work hand in hand, the impact of their work, which on the face of it sounds obvious, but in reality in terms of practice, that work is not happening on a large scale.”
Grossinger is the director of the Impact Philanthropy and Donor Advising Division at Democracy Partners Media, which provides strategies and publicity for progressive political organizations and issues. He has been a leading strategist in movements for social and economic justice for 35 years.
He will be joined at Sunday’s event by Anderson Ranch Visiting Director of Ceramics and Expanded Media Betsy Alwin, who will be interviewing him.
“I encourage artists to link up with organizations that have an infrastructure and work collaboratively with them. As we saw in the civil-rights and immigrant-rights and environmental-justice movements, it works,” he said. “Artists are sometimes organizers themselves and sometimes activists themselves, so they’re not isolated from what’s going on in the community. But the linkage has never been made, at least on the scale that I think it needs to be. The more people that I can reach with this message, I think the better.”
What: Ken Grossinger author talk
Where: Explore Booksellers, Aspen
When: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
More info: explorebooksellers.com/event/social-change-activism-one-its-early-leaders
The Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies (the Bayer Center), presents “Richard Carter’s Observable Universe,” opening Wednesday in the Paepcke Gallery.