Little Globe Crosstown #4, Santa Fe Bus Opera - photo Chris Jonas

Looking back on 2010, I am inspired by the grace and power of the imagination in the midst of challenging times. Over the past year, the Arts & Democracy Project has had the good fortune to connect with people, projects, and communities that embody this creative spark.

Here are a few: 

Young activists participating in Detroit Summer, the League of Young Voters, and the All Ages Movement Project advanced creative visions of participatory democracy. At the Urban Bush Women Institute in New Orleans, elders shared their wisdom about fighting for their rights and drawing on culture to sustain themselves and their communities. Members of the Los Angeles Poverty Department on LA's Skid Row, the Higher Ground project in Harlan Kentucky, and Little Globe's Common Ground project in New Mexico joined with organizing partners to build community and make change through theater. Artists in Arizona rejected intolerance, creating dialogue and cultural exchange. From Art at Work at city hall in Portland Maine to the Future of the Internet town hall in Minneapolis, from a Waffle Shop in Pittsburgh to a Laundromat in New York City, rich and multi-layered stories inspired us to embrace our common humanity and make the world anew.

Discussion with elders at Urban Bush Women Institute 

This is not to understate the challenges of 2010 that we will continue to face in the year to come. Inequality and polarization are on the rise. People have lost their jobs and their homes and the rhetoric of intolerance has stimulated violence. Culture wars, mass media, and cynicism all challenge our democracy, and our environment and human rights continue to be at risk. Natalia Koliada and Nikolai Khalezin of the Belarus Free Theater, participants in our Bridge Conversations, have recently gone into hiding after Koliada was detained in the post-election crackdown in Belarus. The theater threatens the dictatorship through the power of its imagination.

As we move into 2011 let us remember that social justice is a creative act that depends on us all.

And what if we could show

that what we dream

is deeper than what we know?

Suppose if something does not live

in the world

that we long to see

then we make it ourselves

as we want it to be

What if we are Life

Or Liberty

and the Pursuit of something new?

-From  Sekou Sundiata's "51st Dream State"