Creating in Times of Uprising

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2020 has brought about unprecedented times with the COVID-19 global pandemic, Black Lives Matter uprisings, and racial justice protests. As a national arts activism and cultural strategy organization, it became strikingly clear that we needed to invest, support, and strengthen BIPOC artist power in the Midwest. In May 2020, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis impacted many across the Midwest, US, and worldwide. This year, The Center for Culture Power partnered with the Midwest Culture Lab to provide online artist incubation and community building space, offering more than six digital workshops with incredible partners such as Studio Pathways, artist Monica Trinidad, and poet Aja Monet. 

What does it really take to create meaningful cultural strategy directly with artists? We were intentional about co-creating an online convening with cultural organizers from Ohio, Chicago, and Milwaukee for 35 artists to shape the offerings of our digital sessions. The main goal of our partnership was to align across three different organizations to: 

1) Uplift narratives and stories of young people of color in the Midwest, 

2) Develop cultural organizing in the Midwest, and 

3) Engage grassroots artists in artistic development and political education. 

We received positive feedback from artist participants who spoke to the need for this intentional digital space away from social media that allowed them to be more present in connecting with one another and building community. Participants felt empowered to share their expertise and experiences and created genuine connections that inspired them to be more active in creating art and communities. These connections allowed for many to feel affirmed in knowing we are more interconnected than we often acknowledge.

Sustaining such a special space over six sessions fostered a feeling of greater purpose and clarity for participating artists in both their values and creative practice. Facilitators and guest speakers inspired, rather than explained, through a curriculum that centered artists in individual and collective power. During the cohort sessions, the artist participants created their own artist collective called The Hive. Though 2020 posed many challenges, we look forward to cultivating artist power and cultural strategy in the Midwest and in partnership with The Hive.

Check out a video incubated in The Hive by artist Mariah J.