The most-forwarded article award for this week goes to “The Creativity Stimulus” by my friend Jeff Chang, which appears in the May 4, 2009 edition of The Nation. It’s a concise and compelling argument for the vital role that artists and artists-activists can play in democratic renewal and national recovery:
Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the “silent majority” were community organizer and artist.
Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?
You’ll find the article imminently forwardable because, in a mere 1500 words, Jeff succeeds in invoking artists’ role in creating the conditions for an Obama victory, the matrix of community-based cultural groups that nurtures creative activism, the need for public funding, the need for reform in the cultural industries’ “privatization of imagination,” and the example of Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s former culture minister, braiding them all together into an inspiring call for a new “creativity stimulus policy.”
Isn’t it funny how some ideas seem to bud forever, then suddenly burst into flower, shattering petals everywhere? One thing that especially tickles me is that “The Creativity Stimulus” headlines this issue’s cover. The Nation, that venerable journal of progressive politics, has long been known for relegating culture to the back of the book. Making this the cover-story underscores one of the article’s points, that the work of artists captures attention and imagination, helping to move minds (whether toward social change or the purchase of a magazine). I can only hope this marks a reversal of that longtime editorial trend, a U-turn into treating cultural activism with the seriousness it deserves.
Now forward the article, please!