College students and social justice advocates gathered together in a Midtown office for the first Just ART event Monday evening to discuss “how to change the world by throwing beauty into the darkness.”
Kevin Gosa, the Conference and Membership Director of IAM, emceed the night, facilitating the largely college-age audience into a light-hearted, easy atmosphere in the crammed IAM office.
He directed the 38 attendees into small groups to discuss three questions: Why engage in the fight?; What issues are you passionate about?; and How can your art catalyze justice?
Says Duc Minh, 27, a digital media design major from the University of Pennsylvania, “The easiest thing for me to say is, if I don’t want to be in this [sex-trafficking], well then what about my family, then what about my friends, then what about everyone else?”
Representing her group, Flora Baik, 20, a student from Cornell University, says, “We believe that God is the ultimate artist.” It is, another student says, a witness to injustice, a testament to people’s experiences and it is a vision prophetic to how the world could be better.
When going around discussing the various social injustices that individuals care about, the list ran the gamut from bullying to the upkeep of public spaces, from the water crisis to human trafficking, and from immigration to education.
Elfrida Yu, 22, a grad student in Queens College, says that bullying is an issue close to her heart: “I’m a teacher– it’s a big thing with younger grades, not older kids, because that’s when they notice there are differences and they don’t have a filter yet.”
More and more, people spoke on the power of art in shaping cultures:
“Music bypasses the brain and goes straight into the heart,” says Rebecca Ticoalu, 25, activist from Love Out Loud, “Songs today helped breed a culture that tells you to lust, to get sex; so, for me, you gotta be careful about what you write.”
“Artists have a responsibility to their audience, because it’s not Obama who has the most power in America, surprisingly; it’s people like Lady Gaga who influence a generation of young woman through her music.” says David Cheng, a social work major from Nassau Community College.
“How can we not fight for humans?,” asks Ticoalu, “We have a platform as artists– Whatever we do, people pay attention. Why don’t we use that influence to save a five-year old kid who is chained to a bed somewhere, because it’s happening.”
Maria Dora Berruti, 21, an intern for the Price of Life NYC, ended the night with an invitation to the artists for participation in Price of Life NYC, a October 2013 citywide, campus-based, faith-inspired campaign addressing human trafficking in all its forms.
Among the ways in which artists can become involved is through Single Service Involvement (one-time projects), and through Working Groups (group projects planning specific parts of the campaign including proxe stations and social media).
“Artists play a big role in abolishing slavery,” say Berruti, “We’re tackling this problem, because it’s not too big for God and it’s not too big for us.”
The next Just ART discussion will be on September 13.
Like the Price of Life Facebook page for more information on Just ART discussions and the October 2013 NYC campaign.
If you are an artist OR would like to get involved with the Price of Life NYC campaign, email PriceofLifeNYC@gmail.com and let them know who you are and how you’d like to get involved.