Reportback on the Creative Resistance Retreat
From July 10-15 the Creative Resistance retreat brought together leaders from human rights sector, arts networks, and organizations focused on the mobility of culture workers. Sponsored by freeDimensional and hosted at the Breuninger Foundation's Wasan Island center near Toronto, Canada, the retreat provided space for a critical dialogue on the role of arts networks in strengthening the social justice movement globally. Said freeDimensional: "We think this meeting is especially important at a time when global interdependence is increasing and new forms of collaboration are necessary to combat economic instability (which is linked to the social issues that culture workers often challenge through their work and which may place them in the same dangerous situations as other human rights defenders).
The Arts & Democracy Project was honored to be included in this inspiring gathering.
The retreat affirmed for me the power of a diverse multi-sector group of people working together on common concerns, especially when they come together with good will about learning from and supporting one other. The mix of activists - including people working in arts and culture, journalism, history, law and technology from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, made our conversations extraordinarily rich and fruitful. While the assumptions that underlie our language and meanings of core phrases might vary depending on our diverse contexts, our shared values of interdependence and solidarity made collaboration not only possible, but necessary.
As a U.S. focused network in a global conversation I was reminded of how isolated we can be in this country and what we lose by being outside of global policymaking, networks, and coalitions. We each drew a map of our networks that identified both our resources and our needs, with others then posting notes on how they might help fill the needs. I noted this U.S. isolation as a need on our map and I was moved by the generosity of the group who made multiple offers for information, connections, and exchange.
Looking at the ways people approach their work, their networks, and their support systems helped me learn more about diverse mission-based and resourceful structures. This is something the Arts & Democracy Project is eager to explore further -- how to be lean (but not too lean!), flexible, and effective. I was impressed with how freeDimensional leverages surplus resources - transforming artist residency apartments into creative safe havens for activists and cultural workers in distress - a process now being supplemented with a rapid response "Creative Resistance Fund."
I was excited by the resourcefulness of our group as well. We joined together to create a collaborative report - starting on the island and then editing it across continents. We are continuing to collaborate in the building of an International Coalition for Arts, Human Rights, and Social Justice starting with an online group. The goal is to support one another by being resources and sharing resources, strategizing on effective action, responding to requests for help, and highlighting opportunities for raising awareness and influencing policies.
Wasan Island reminded me how place matters! This beautiful place affects how you think, reflect, connect and act. Saul Ulerio's site specific dance moved us to see and feel things in the place that we hadn't yet recognized. Just a few days on the island, in such inspiring company, recharged me and I'm excited about applying what I learned to our work.
Great thanks to freeDimensional, Breuninger Foundation, and all of my Creative Resistance friends and colleagues.
For more information about the retreat, do visit their web site.