Unity In Diversity

Art plays role in the social conversation

Sarah Hanson, Co Online Editor

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Art isn’t a soapbox. It’s an escape.
In the last four years, I have heard this phrase, or something similar, no less than a hundred times. At the time, I was maddeningly indifferent, but now I realize that this statement is fundamentally incorrect.
Nearly three months ago, I read an influential article on Project1324’s website about the relationship between creativity and change. In this article, author Finnegan Harries wrote, “Art gives us the opportunity to bring a topic to the forefront of public discourse.”
Harries goes on to discuss the universal purpose of art. Its influence has brought people of all walks of life together since the first days of early civilization all the way to modern times.
Upon further reflection and clarity, I have reached my concrete conclusion: Creativity is the seed in which change is sprouted.
Social change is often associated with images of politicians reciting polished speeches, but that’s not where it begins. Change has, and always will, start with the people. For example, in the early 1900s, suffragettes petitioned government leaders to advocate for equality. Today, we continue to fight similar battles.
Whether it be for gender equality, environmental protection, LGBTQ rights, or immigration policies, change is sparked by a single action. However, in order to enact adequate change, the people must first become informed, inspired, and at times, even outraged.
The entertainment industry is one of the largest contributors in the handling and delivery of information. In such a politically charged time, entertainment’s responsibility encompasses much more than to simply entertain. Through music, movies, and TV, entertainment media is reaching people everywhere.
We have seen this most recently from rap artist Kendrick Lamar with the release of his new album on April 21. Through the art of music, Lamar has called attention to divides in wealth and privilege between races in the US.
Since the release of his 2015 album “To Pimp A Butterfly,” Lamar has brought the issue of racial injustice to the forefront of public discussion. This has caused controversy, yes, but it has also raised awareness on serious issues within the country.
Before this recent work, throughout the 2000s, an anonymous street artist known as Banksy caught the attention of the public by painting murals in major world cities including London and NYC. The subject of these murals was focused on issues within the government and the spread of public information.
Additionally, the new musical “Dear Evan Hansen” also directly confronts strong social themes including mental health, suicide, friendship, family, hope, and self-love. The show has gained popularity and esteemed critical praise due to it’s handling of these sensitive themes. Furthermore, the hottest ticket on Broadway is a musical that directly stirs the pot of conversation in the social world.
Suddenly, subjects that had been—until recent times—taboo in American culture, are now being discussed on massive public platforms. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, these conversations include people of all ages, rather than being restricted to one specific age group.
One of the most overlooked flaws within our world today is that when it comes to matters of political and social debate, one crucial demographic is left out of the conversation: young people.
Young people tend to be branded with the stereotype of lazy, uncaring, and—frankly—unimportant. This has created a vast absence of knowledge within the age group. However, art and entertainment have helped to forge a bridge over generational gaps when it comes to talking about relevant, pressing issues. Through such a public forum, art is able to inspire change and bring controversial social topics into the light.
Some people may have the impression that art’s sole purpose is to provide an “escape,” but, in reality, art’s sole purpose is to inspire. In the 21st century, being informed and inspired to use your voice have never been more imperative for the future of our country. Change begins with a single thought, and we the people should allow art to challenge the social world.
Whatever the form may be, art has the power to bring together people from all over the world regardless of race, gender, status, age, or sexual identity. Art has no language, race, or stereotype. It belongs to everyone. It is from everywhere.
It is through art that we are all connected. And it is through unity that we rise up together to work on making the world a more accepting place.

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Unity In Diversity