Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. When you state “we need to change something” I am reminded of the quote from the Sufist scholar Rumi that says new organs of perception come about as a result of necessity, therefore in order to increase one’s perception one needs to increase necessity. As you accurately point out Oakland (and other communities) needs more compassion, opportunity, and investment. We may very well be at the state that Rumi speaks of, of increasing our necessity through response to rampant violence, devastating budget cuts, and a society that favors a corporate culture over a creative culture. All of these things have pushed our necessity, as a larger community, further. With an awareness of this new reality comes (ideally) a rich and vigorous conversation on values. What is legal vs. illegal? (You speak compellingly of graffiti artists and their ability to legitimately express a voice.) Cultural vs. commercial? (We see great examples from social entrepreneurship that these can be combined.) And finally, political vs. civil? (The ability to creatively protect people’s physical integrity and safety as well as protecting the right to express oneself and the right to assemble).
Sanjit Sethi is Director of the Center for Art and Public Life, and the Barclay Simpson Chair of Community Art at California College of the Arts. Sethi received a BFA in 1994 from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, an MFA in 1998 from the University of Georgia, and an MS in Advanced Visual Studies in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sethi has been an artist in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada and a Fulbright fellow in Bangalore, India, working on the Building Nomads Project. Sethi continued his strong focus on interdisciplinary collaboration as director of the MFA program at the Memphis College of Art. His work deals with issues of nomadism, identity, the residue of labor, and memory. Sethi recently completed the Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance, an olfactory-based memorial in Memphis, Tennessee; and Richmond Voting Stories, a collaborative video project involving youth and senior residents of Richmond, CA. Sethi’s current works include Indians/Indians, the Urban Defibrillator, and a series of writings on the territory of failure and its relationship to collaborative cultural practice, all of which involve varied social and geographic communities.
Don’t miss Reframing the Arts : Advocating for the Public Culture at Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)on Saturday, April 16! Register here.