Activist Art Museums

Words and music were my tools for connecting to the larger world and making meaning of my life. Music was a huge part of my political awakening. Books gave me the words to name experiences and deepen my understandings.

In the last year or so, I’ve visited art museums in Seattle, Dallas, Portland, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. I’ve been able to see the special exhibits of the works of Yves Saint Laurent, Auguste RodinAndy WarholRobert Mapplethorpe and Sandow Birk. However, it wasn’t until I revisited the Minneapolis Institute of Art during a recent trip home to Minnesota, that I experienced an art museum as a place for activism. The MIA made intentional connections between the art, artists, and politics. While, art is frequently recognized for controversy and commentary on life and politics. The MIA made a larger connection to the current social-political climate–namely racism, anti-immigration, xenophobia –and art. They have this amazing exhibit Resistance, Protest, Resilience that highlights acts  of resistance throughout the last 100 years. They don’t allow viewers to believe that the current social-political climate is something new or attached only to the Trump Administration. This is a powerful counter-narrative.  The MIA doesn’t stop with this one exhibit. They host a series titled, “Current Conversations,” that connects current events to museum collections. While I was there in February they focused on immigration, so throughout the museum there were informational sheets connecting immigration and art. It was amazing to experience art in such a politicized way. It profoundly changed my connection and thinking around visual art. It helped me to see art museums as places for activism in ways I previously only held for music and books.

Silencing Voices

This is not a mandate.

Despite what the Trump Administration wants us to believe, Trump and the GOP do not have a mandate. Trump did not receive a majority of the votes. He lost the popular vote by over 2 million votes. Of the 136,628,459 voters in 2016, Trump received  62,979,363 votes ( (46% of the popular vote and 307 electoral college). There were an estimated 231,556,622 people eligible to vote in the 2016 election. Of those, 40% of eligible people did not even vote. This means that Trump received support of just over 25% of the eligible voters. The analyses around the election among them White supremacy,  Russian interference, and voter suppression have been written about elsewhere.

On Friday and Saturday, we witnessed millions of people demonstrating and marching in solidarity in the Festival of Resistance and  Women’s March. This type of action is important to democracy. The voices of the people must be heard. If not through the electoral process, then in the streets. Yet, we have a growing movement to silence voices of the people (especially those in opposition to the police and government).  Over the last several years, we have seen propaganda that frames political protests and demonstrations as riots. The media and government consistently frame Black Lives Matter and No Dakota Access Pipeline (#noDAPL) protests as riots. This serves to silence opposition and spark fear in citizens.

We are witnessing bills being introduced (and thankfully some defeated) that threaten protections and criminalize protests and acts of civil disobedience.

We are also reading about the censoring of federal agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency and Depts. of Agriculture and Interior have reportedly been told to cease communication with the public including the use of social media.

So, we have an Administration that refuses to acknowledge that it doesn’t have the support of a majority of voters and ruling through Executive Order and memoranda with law makers who are actively trying to silence and criminalize the voices of the people.






Crying Wolf

The power of the investigative press—whose adherence to fact has already been severely challenged by the conspiracy-minded, lie-spinning Trump campaign—will grow weaker. –Masha Gessan

I have some deep concerns with the Trump Administration’s agenda. It is critically important that those who are in opposition and resistance remain engaged and vigilant. A strong democracy relies on a free press and educated citizenry. As such, it is imperative that we are informed and critical of media messages that serve up fear and hype.

The Hill published an article titled: “Trump Team Prepares Dramatic Cuts.” The article provides some information about Trump transition team’s outline for shrinking the government spending. It’s list some proposed cuts to the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Justice, and State. Additionally, there is proposal for privatizing Corporation for Public Broadcasting and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities.

The article then moves from reporting potentially factual information to pure speculation that spiraled into tweets, Facebook posts, and other news reports suggesting that Trump’s team was cutting funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant programs.“The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.” Note: There was nothing in the article that actually stated that Trump’s team was going to cut VAWA programs instead the speculation was based on the Blueprint for Reform from the Heritage Foundation.

This type of reporting and the immediate reactions concern me and feed “fake news” claims. It essentially helps to empower Trump and undermines any opposition to him by creating hysteria without fact. Thus, delegitimizing   factually based calls for action and alarm. Critical consumption of media and thoughtful responses are necessary for sustained resistance to the Trump administration. Yet, we have to be careful about judgements based on little to no evidence.  We need to be good consumers of media and resist the hype being sold via the 24/7 news cycle that ultimately feeds Trump. We must be diligent and not create false alarms.

Here are some resources on critical consumption of media:

Dr. Melissa Zimdars’ False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources 

Fake or real? How to self-check the news and get the facts