There's A Glitch in the Matrix

Equity is at the core of this moment in our country's history.  Occupy America continues to remind us of the inequities that have become the reality of the American dream.  Once held in esteem because it was within reach of all Americans, the dream is fading in a country where poverty continues to increase, jobs are at a premium and politicians don’t realize their “team” is not one party but an entire country, and it’s losing.

Change is inevitable but it is not easy. We are currently in a time where everything that was concrete is now pliable.  We are questioning basic assumptions that were, at least for the past 50 years, pretty darn steadfast.  We have to start asking ourselves basic questions.  What does it mean to be an American?  What does it mean to be human?  What does it mean to be an artist? It is time to start paying attention because there IS a glitch in the matrix. And that glitch brings opportunity.

I’m seeing the doors open in many areas for artists and arts organizations. In my short time at Grantmakers in the Arts, I have witnessed other sectors seeking new solutions to systemic problems.  Those working in aging, health, social justice and education are reaching out for new tools and many of those institutions and individuals think the arts and artists might have some answers.  The question is: are the arts ready to be part of the solution?   Are we grown up enough to say that this sector, the nonprofit arts sector, is part of the solution for democracy, for community stability and for educational progress? If we can say that, then we need to get busy doing it.

Grantmakers in the Arts is tackling a few big issues this coming year.  The work does not begin in 2012, it began years ago. We will not finish it in 2012, it will go on for years to come. BUT, I believe that there is hope in this time of American crises for artists and arts organizations to play a role in eradicating racism, gender discrimination and turning around our failing education system. The arts can help war veterans regain peace of mind and keep communities safer.  I believe all these things can happen and more but we, as an arts community, have to believe it too.  We can’t take advantage of any of these opportunities by sitting alone in the cafeteria.  This takes being at the table with the grown-ups.  Serving on community and school committees, running for office, volunteering our time and our organization to help, taking on community issues to arbitrate, using our boards of trustees to place us in roles of responsibility.  Our role in civic engagement is clear.  We are the ones who define what it means to be human.  That is our gift and we mustn’t waste it.