The Arts and Social Justice

I last wrote about Jason Haaheim (principal timpanist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) when I mentioned his excellent blog article on mental models and using them for more effective practice.

He’s written another great blog article – not about mental models or deep work or deliberate practice.

It’s about something much more important – the role of arts, artists, and art organizations in social justice.

It’s a marvelous look at the role that art and artists have played in speaking truth to power in the past. But it also holds up a mirror at how most arts organizations have failed in that mission recently.

Here are a few selected quotes, but go read the whole thing. And once you’ve read it, pass it around – this is something that deserves to be heard by everyone in every arts organization.

…I believe a moment like this calls us to confront our fields’ deeply rooted scourges of racism and injustice. I’m writing this because I feel it’s important, and because I believe we have an unparalleled opportunity for profound individual and institutional change.

I am not going to defend performing arts institutions.

…[E]ven within the limited perspective of white male opera composers, the works that have stood the test of time are decidedly pro-justice, pro-compassion, and pro-humanist. They are anti-tyranny and anti-brutality.

There is no abstract plane in which art exists divorced from politics and human experience. There is virtually no corner of my life that hasn’t been impacted by the politics of our last several years. We don’t get to live apart from that world — we are in it. And we are participants in the world just as much as past composers were participants in their worlds, both reflecting and refracting their experience of those times.

Go read the whole thing over on Jason’s site.