Monday, June 09, 2008

Arts Town Hall 2008 @ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Today in San Francisco, history was made as artists from most of the metropolitan areas were represented at the Arts Town Hall. The free all day event was an opportunity for artists and funders, politicians and cultural institutions to meet, network, and share resources. I arrived in time for my workshop, "To Be Traditional is to Be Political," at 3 p.m. Alliance for California Traditional Arts, invited me to participate and all the four panelists were past or present ACTA fellows :-)

The town hall meeting began at 12:30 p.m. where I heard, Faviana Rodriguez, Printmaker and social entrepreneur, wowed the audience with her comments on "The Arts in the Bay Area, the Future is Now." She is a member of East Side Arts Alliance.

Following my workshop which began with a ritual prayer and cleansing from the Canal Welcome Center. All of the presenters had crafts or featured dance or songs. I prepared a talk, and then showed a slide show on the Maafa Ritual, produced by my daughter. Visit I was kind of bummed that I had no Internet connection, yet the following workshop did. I hear the technology was uneven throughout the day.

I stayed put when I saw that Carl Anthony, crusader for justice issues as relates to open space and who gets to decide who lives where, was a panelist. I met Mr. Anthony in 1989ish when I was a student at Holy Names College attending a class on environmental science and I saw a story about him in the East Bay Express and I learned of his Urban Habitat Program at Earth Island Institute and wanted to do my project on his organization. He was busy and referred me to a colleague, Victor Lewis, who taught at HNC in the Creation Spirituality program. Environmental racism was a new topic then, and Mr. Anthony's program addressed the causes and impact of such attitudes on a community well being. Victor gave a great presntation, and we've been friends ever since.

Over the years I continued to follow Mr. Anthony's work, so to see him at the conference in the same room as me, was an opportunity I wasn't about to pass up.
The workshop topic was, "Justice: A Frame for Art in the 21st Century." He was the first panelist to speak and he spoke of his early work as a painter, and his decision to parley this into a degree in design and how this led to his interest in urban habitats.

He said his framework was the civil rights movement, and the issue of equal access. Then to come to the Bay Area and find white envornmentalists more concerned about the land than the people, was an eye opener for him. Now at 70, he is working on a film that moves from the origin of civilization to the present. Spiralling through space, the short film is certainly eye opening as Mr. Anthony takes us from the great migration northeast, to the Jim Crow laws, the price so many men and women paid for their belief in social justice and their rights as American citizens. There is no narrative, rather, Mr. Anthony uses a score to underly the various periods explored from several billion years ago, to now.

Other panelists included, moderator: Sabrina Klein, with besides Mr. Anthony, Paloma Pavel, textile artist and for me, co-author of the seminal book, Random Acts of Kindness..., and Jayeesha Dutta, social change activist and Executive Director of Mind Power Collective.

Afterwards I went downstairs and chatted with Kevin from Interestion for the Arts about films, and Bay Area housing co-ops, and New College closing--I'd missed this detail, along with another I found out about when I got home. Tomatoes have been pulled from the shelves for possible contamination. It's odd, the way crops are being pulled out of circulation, first spinach, not tomatoes.

I saw another friend, Naru, poet/educator, Pat from Vukani Mawethu, Traci Bartlow, dancer/choreographer, photographer, and another artist, a quilter/artist whom I hadn't seen since AAMLO unveiled the permanent exhibit celebrating black history and life in the SF Bay and the country.


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