Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Experiments in Cinema v12.3: The Cubano Edition


Experiments in Cinema v12.3: The Cubano Edition

Experiments in Cinema is an annual celebration of international, cinematic undependence. This Basement Films festival brings the global community of alternative moving image artists to New Mexico as a way of inspiring a new generation of media activists to recognize the value of their voices and to participate in shaping future trends of cultural representation. Experiments in Cinema screens approximately 100 films from over 35 countries in addition to hosting unique lectures, workshops and a regional youth program that features films made by New Mexican high school students.  

Expanding Video is a pop-up exhibit that mirrors the mission of our festival, offering attendees a cross section of works that speak to our understanding of the depth and breadth of the current sate of the (media) art. To this end, we try to be inclusive while also challenging our own aesthetic predisposition. Expanding Video, and the films and programs presented at the Guild Cinema (our other festival venue), are expressions of this mission. In this exhibit of media-based installation work, not only are we featuring works that embrace new technologies, but also those that look back to embrace what we like to call dead technologies.  And, at the risk of suggesting a false binary, we would like to think that we are also presenting works that study “everything in between.”  
The title, Expanding Video, is borrowed from Cuban media scholar Yainet Rodriguez. Rodriguez who is one of five Cuban scholars who Experiments in Cinema is hosting as part of our festival’s special focus on Cuban media art this year. Yainet is presenting a program that explores time-based installation work from that island country in conjunction with this pop-up exhibition. One might note that amongst the works in this exhibition is Three In One Flags by Cuban artist, Nestor Siré.

I am often asked to define undependent cinema (sometimes referred to as experimental, personal or the alternative screen), which is a fair question considering the dynamic nature of the form. Unlike a Western, romantic comedy or horror movie, the parameters and tropes of cinematic undependence are much more slippery, as they necessarily move and oscillate in challenging and unexpected ways. Consider how, back in the 1930s, Georgia O’Keeffe experimented with paint and canvas in terms of how one might re-envision the way a landscape can be represented on a rectangular surface. Or, think about how a scientist might develop a hypothesis and then stage an experiment to explore the validity of his/her assertion. These are all illustrations that suggest possibilities for assessing and interpreting cinematic experimentation. 

I consider undependent, cinematic practitioners to be the traveling troubadours of our day. In the most egalitarian way, these artists are invested in sharing the news of the day (literally and often metaphorically), from their perspectives and from their particular corners of the world. These are works that speak from the heart. They are not tainted by boardrooms filled with marketing executives, burdened by multi-million dollar budgets or assigned value by Saatchi & Saatchi. Too often, the moving image/cinema is thought of as something that necessarily costs millions of dollars to make. If one believes in the cultural importance of the arts, imagine if a painting necessarily cost millions of dollars to make, we would be culturally bankrupt.  The moving image arts have a responsibility (like all the arts) to deliver a vital, barometric read of the human condition. To this end it is the goal of Experiments in Cinema to offer works that speak to this responsibility, while also offering opportunities for engagement and, most importantly, participation. Go make a movie (that doesn’t cost millions of dollars to craft) or a time-based installation, and then share it with EVERYONE!

 Bryan Konefsky
    Founder/Director, Experiments in Cinema
    President, Basement Films

Decolonizing Nature




Decolonizing Nature
Chloë Courtney & Lara Esther Goldmann, Exhibition Curators

Decolonizing Nature brings together diverse voices to the conversation on geopolitical power structures, coloniality, and their severe impact on ecology and indigenous communities. Together the artists reveal the complexity, as well as the interconnected relationships between ecological and social injustices. Looking at the work of Allora & Calzadilla, addressing the military occupation and ensuing environmental and social injustices in Vieques, Puerto Rico, or the installation Return of a Lake by Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves, points to the continuous reproduction of hierarchical power structures. Return of a Lake represents both the artist’s research practice as well as her deep collaboration with the community of Xico in the Valley of Mexico, examining the impact coloniality (the continuation of the logics that made colonization possible) has had and still has on that community and its agricultural practices.

The relationships between many of the works reveal a broad concern with documenting, practicing, and revitalizing indigenous agricultural methods and ways of relating to our environment as an act of resistance. The work of New Mexico-based artist and activist Basia Irland meditates upon the historical, cultural, and environmental significance of various rivers that have been subject to industrial and political exploitation, destroying not only natural habitats, but also the communities who depend upon these rivers. Likewise, Guatemalan artist Sandra Monterroso recovers and restores both her own heritage as a Maya artist, as well as larger cultural practices, relating the tradition and process of dying textiles to the incremental but serious destruction of the land and water. Reconsidering these histories counters the systemic erasure of Maya existence and history in Guatemala. Similarly, the work of Carlos Maravilla Santos and Ehecatl Morales Valdelamar, a collective based in Mexico City, studies and collaborates with Xochimilco, a region which still reflects the canals, chinampas, and waterways that comprised the original structure of the city before colonization. Their community-based practice involves workshops, performances, and many collaborations with local advocacy groups to maintain these traditional and sustainable agricultural practices, reinforcing their importance and making them present within the larger urban environment of Mexico City. The importance of art and visual imagery as elements of social movements is abundantly apparent through the prints of Dylan AT Miner, which helped galvanize awareness and support for the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, and point to the economic interests continuing colonial structures of power, and the consequences this has for land, water, and communities. The poetic photographs of Michael P. Berman allude to the physical displacement and fragmented identities caused by the implicit and actual violence of the borderlands, and the historical and continuing enforcement of hierarchies of power through structures such as race, religion, and capitalism.

The artworks included, with their potential to raise questions and provoke critical thought, show us a way in which we can begin to question the historical narratives and assumed knowledges that continue to dictate the conversations surrounding social, economic, ecological and political injustices. As such, Virginia Colwell’s installation destabilizes the parameters of predominant narratives of knowledge through its critical understanding of how museums, academies, and other institutions have systematically reified these histories, provoking a reconsideration of hegemonic thought and knowledge systems as well as which cultural practices are considered valid—or not.

In their various connections to specific communities and struggles of decolonizing histories, landscapes, and nature, these artists make the broad concepts of resistance, resilience, and revitalization tangible. The ways in which the works de-link from official narratives and recover memories, both individual and collective, remind us that art offers a powerful space from which to speak, and from which to decolonize.
We are incredibly grateful to the participating artists for sharing their work, which we strongly believe asks us to question hegemonic ways of understanding the world we live in, and pushes us as individuals to seek new ways of thinking, resisting, and connecting to the environment and each other.



The exhibition Decolonizing Nature at 516 ARTS was in conjunction the environmental justice conference Decolonizing Nature: Resistance, Resilience, Revitalization, organized by Subhankar Banerjee, Lannan Chair, Land Arts of the American West / Art & Ecology Program, UNM College of Fine Arts.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Inter-inspiration at 516 ARTS

By Shelle Vanetten de Sanchez, Ph.D


On a Saturday evening in March 2017, 516 ARTS brought together a fascinating, inter-everything (interdisciplinary, intergenerational, international) panel of women to talk about art, identity, politics, feminism, and self-expression moderated by Megan Kamerick. Margaret Randall (renowned poet and photographer), Doris Difaranecio (self-described “dike Colombian, New Yorker, performance artist), Erin Galvez (young, soft-spoken visual artist), Dagmara Zabska (energetic, outspoken Polish theatre artist/director), and Kelsey Paschich (poised, elegant dancer) sat together in a gallery full of audience members.

The discussion was wide-ranging and full of beautiful nuggets of inspiration and insight. Perhaps, the only threads tying these women together (beyond gender) were creative passion and artistic achievement. There was talk of feminism, women’s issues, and women’s work – ideas that fuel each of these artists at various levels and in shifting forms. Mostly, there was talk of art, creativity, and self-expression.

Each spoke beautifully about art and artmaking and this ultimately connected every loose strand of the discussion. Kelsey spoke not simply of dance, but of “movement as a language that makes transparent the space between dream and reality with spontaneity, juxtaposition, and the element of surprise.” Doris described her socially engaged projects in Chiapas with Mayan artists as “memory and testimony intersected with transformation and activism and beauty.”  Margaret, often described by others as a political writer shared, “I resist ‘political’ art – I am political and politics show up in my art, but so does love and nature and beauty.” Dagmara’s description of her theatre work was both literal and metaphorical and is arguably true for many artists, “we are trying to find accurate pictures working with shadows.”

It was encouraging and powerful to see Erin and Kelsey (the youngest members of the panel) seated on either side of Margaret (the eldest of the panel) – not simply the continuum of age, but also as a representation of the arc of life-long creative practice. Erin, finishing her M.F.A., shared that she has a lot of questions about her identity, especially as a Filipina-American. While Margaret confidently said, “I just am who I am.”

Motherhood pushed Kelsey to ask herself, “Now what? What is the purpose of my work?” These questions led her to co-found SHIFT I DANCE to give voice and a platform to many women artists. While 80 year-old Margaret explains, “I went from my middle years when housework and motherhood accompanied every book that I published to my later years when I balanced my own work with my day job. Now, these are my most productive years – I am free to do my own work and work 12 – 14 hours per day. It is wonderful.”

The gift of this wide-ranging discussion was the pure enthusiasm of each woman for her creative discipline and a long list of with inspiration and insight in my notebook. Here are just a few of favorites:

“Our language is being changed – that is my big concern as a writer. Beware of hierarchies and ask more questions.”  – Margaret Randall

“Be more focused. Follow your intuition. Be patient. Read. Make love. Don't surrender yourselves to other voices.”  – Doris Difaranecio

“I disagree with the fake smile and the pressure to be happy. Don’t be afraid – defeat is just defeat – it’s really not the end of the world.”  – Dagmara Zabska



The event “Public Forum: Women Artists Speak Out: Feminism & Creative Expression” was presented by 516 ARTS in conjunction with Women & Creativity 2017 and in partnership with Tricklock Company’s Revolutions International Theatre Festival.


Shelle Sanchez is a planner, facilitator and optimist working at intersections of art, education and community. She serves on the Advisory Board of 516 ARTS.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Karsten Creightney
Paper Visions 


His voracious curiosity about art’s role in history means we cannot avoid what Karsten Creightney has contributed to this moment in our voracious living history. Partly that’s because the scale of his offerings are dimensional not only in size, subject matter, materials. In his words, the heart of things is “worn on [his] sleeve.”

That advertisement for me advocates unabashedness combined with humility. Creightney refers to himself as a “very slow learner,” someone who in younger days felt worlds away from technical prowess of European Renaissance and Dutch masters, leagues apart from El Greco and Velasquez. Their times and subject matters appeared too far afield, a full understanding of what they portrayed or portended elusive. But it wasn’t much time before repeated open-minded returns urged by the safety of his family, his schools, their books, and those doors began to gradually swing open.

He discloses how aspects of his training, their emphasis on old ways of hierarchical mastery, are what turned him away from those previous eras of artistic practice. He strives instead to maintain a constant sense of autodidactism. “I never want to stop apprenticing.” Thus his tendency propels a commitment to liberal arts without fear of veering into unexpected or uncharted territories.

Retreats into the natural world also provide ongoing tutelage. Those and adventures in foraging, pulling materials from thrift stores and discarded books, layering them with matter and inquiry without caution about how they might transport him and his viewers into unexpected places. He says such improvisational impulses are in response, in part, to contemporary academic and art market fixations with conceptual art. The trick, according to Creightney, is not to fear ubiquity, not to fear subject matter if it veers hazardously close to derivative or what he refers to cheerfully as overplayed. (In fact, labels of all sorts be damned for their impositions and superficiality.) 

Arab Spring II, lithography, silkscreen,
ink & colored pencil on paper, 30 x 22 inches 

“If I want to paint flowers,” he laughs, “then gawd-dammit, I’m going to paint flowers.” 

Lightheartedness is part of how he renders what others might press into hackneyed imagery. How he’s capable of playing with and in contrast to a subject of conventional beauty the recurring flower figure in ways not prescribed by traditional precedents.

There were moments he wondered whether it was viable to fixate on a subject we find ourselves yawning at, glazed over at in a hospital waiting area or a sterile hotel room. It’s viable. With head-on pursuit of multiple mediums, offset and highlighted with multiple fields of information. With rabbit-skin glue to preserve the integrity of what others refer to as a canvas. With layers of pasted paper, thin mixtures of wax, varnish, linseed oil. With printmaking pressure that sinks one thin piece of Japanese parchment into a thicker base. It means great lengths to smooth it into a complete carrying vessel. And for work so antithetical to superficial, the surface is one of the essentials.

Speaking of precedents: What I read as (cheeky?) references to early Andy Warhol’s floral work, Creightney says are grateful and unabashed acts of homage. He loves, after all, that Warhol implanted a conversation with the culture of mass production still buzzing, loves learning through imitation by adopting some of the same processes that Warhol did in his frenzied pursuit of imitation. The Warhol way of making work implanted a kind of new dialect into the world of art, a license to give its practitioners, Creightney among them, an abiding lack of inhibition.

“It’s in his spirit that I’m stealing and borrowing.” (Again, laughing.) Such full transparency in methodology means weight and depth of his pieces manage to simultaneously wholly complement and counteract other forms of sincerest flattery or thievery. His Lagoon woman was “straight-up lifted” from Gauguin’s Woman By the Sea. (It had to be done. “She’s a gesture of pure beauty.”) There are also nods to David Hockney’s deconstructed Western landscapes photographs, though Creightney’s are an invocation of serenity, an idyll imagined rather than imprinted or constructed.

He’s considered making work more polished, more precisely packaged. Stints in academia instilled how to distill polished descriptives, but those exercises also taught him that those are “against my nature.” Rather he tries to exert a “push and pull between deliberate intention” and what materializes, morphed by reactions to the materials he collects and manipulates. Not immune to the manic barrage of political discourse that only seems to have picked up steam and vitriol and volume, “but it’s also so exhausting and infuriating, that I have to escape into my own worlds--peaceful worlds that only exist in the imagination.”

Karsten Creightney, Self Portrait as Walter Scott, 2016, collage, silkscreen, acrylic & wax on wood, 24 x 32 inches

Karsten Creightney, Lagoon, 2016, collage, silkscreen, watercolor, acrylic, oil & wax on canvas, 66 x 78 inches

And “I don’t want to shout,” he says, nor does he confront with aggression. Rather he extends an invitation, provides the space and time he’s been allowed in his own life for asking disconcerting questions, for expelling anger and frustration in compelling forms  rather than reacting. He’s seen people turn away hardened, lacking transformation, when they’re “immediately hammered with the point.”

His wariness of the potential of art to comment on civil society with exploitative methods is palpable. “I’m not living in the ghetto. Cops aren’t harassing me on a daily basis. Talk to me on the phone, and you’d probably not have any idea I’m black.” The question, then: Is the maker’s right to explore such subjects, to take any ownership, to benefit from an awful extreme?

A film that struck him, 13th, omitted Walter Scott’s killing by a Charleston police officer per wishes of Scott’s family. And yet a still frame trimmed out of the worldwide sharing of his visible death notice meant Creightney felt not only “fury” and horror, but that “as an artist it’s also my place to acknowledge countless things,” no matter how they incite feelings that simply cannot be contained. His Arab Spring II piece, for one: Creightney describes its background as a field of noise. But that field feeds crops, bloom bursting through what others see a desert. Not unlike the places he calls home, places that can peel  eyes open with drought or depletion, beauty brimming from a wilderness unaccustomed outsiders might overlook as too harsh, too brown, too barren. Too fertile to crave shelter.

Karsten Creightney, Outskirts, 2016, collage, watercolor, acrylic, oil & wax on canvas, 66 x 78 inches


— Margaret Wright
    Freelance journalist from New Mexico, residing in Washington, D.C. 

View the exhibition brochure here

Thursday, October 29, 2015

On the occasion of the completion of “Brainbow Alley”

by Suzanne Sbarge
































I am pleased to announce the completion of “Brainbow Alley” by Larry Bob Phillips on the backside of the 516 ARTS building. In this piece, Phillips has created a mash-up of high and low culture, art history and comic books. The piece references Pieter Breugel the Elder’s masterpiece “The Triumph of Death,” in which a panorama of skeletons and humans are locked in an eternal battle. Unlike the anonymous, indistinguishable human faces that comprise Breugel’s macabre disaster-scape, the featured protagonists in “Brainbow Alley” include some familiar Albuquerque artists, professors, kids, grandfathers, dogs and community leaders.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Economics of Environmental Art Panel

By Sherri Brueggemann

At left: collector Chris Burmeister and curator/moderator Nancy Zastudil
I suppose for all artists the “new normal” has always been the norm for them – how do I fund my work? Regardless of if the art is object-based, performative or conceptual, there is always the question of how to generate meaningful revenue to allow oneself to be creative and obtain the materials, time and inspiration they need and seek. From sourcing extremely rare or exotic materials to visiting locations 100 miles down the highway or around the world, how do artists, especially those who are working in social practice or non-object based expressions, navigate the precarious balance between creative expression and capitalism? 

The October 3rd panel discussion at 516 ARTS on the Economics of Environmental Art was a brief but enriching conversation about that dilemma. With two artists, a curator, collector and gallerist on the panel, and a room full of the same as audience participants, the conversation provided insights into the nuanced values of art created about, and inspired by, our environment.


In David Throsby’s 2001 treatise on Economics and Culture (2001 Cambridge University Press), six distinct values of art contribute to its cultural value: aesthetic, spiritual, social, historical, symbolic and finally, its authenticity. Once a cultural value is established, the economic value is determined by either its private ownership value or its public good value. Environmental and ecological artists – or artists who are working within those subject areas as well as other political subjects – create art that can have both a private commodity value and public good value. According to the panelists, varying contributing factors affect both of these cultural and economic values and how environmental art is funded.

In describing a specific European artist who “sells” private conversations between himself and his patrons, panelist Chris Burmeister contributed the perfect metaphor for what I see most environmental art is at its core —a special conversation with an artist about the land, water, sky or nature on this planet, the third one from the Sun. First we must value the conversation with the artist before we can value the objectification or documentation about that conversation. As the collector on the panel, Burmeister summed it up well when he said, “…what provokes sells.” Environmental artists provoke, but how do they sell?

From left: Artists Ryan Henel, Jami Porter Lara and curator Patricia Watts
Patricia Watts, seasoned curator and non-profit arts director, provided a thumbnail overview of the evolving land art/ecological art aesthetics from the 1960’s to now, moving from objective (sculptural/materials/earth-based) to non-objective (didactic documentation only) and back again. While foundations, institutions and even government generously funded the non-objective, experience based art interrogations about, and remediation of, the environment during the 1980’s, more tangible outcomes are now expected. Foundations are asking artists to go beyond just “raising awareness,” they’re looking for art projects that will affect change, permanently. This brought up the question of permanent vs. temporary art, especially those publicly funded at the local level.

Artist Ryan Henel noted that cities and government agencies have implemented such highly developed infrastructure systems that often we no longer see the environment. Henel’s personal inquiry as an artist is, “How can the artist, and therefore art be holistically integrated into the design and building of these systems to help us keep seeing the environment?” Jamie Porter Lara, on the other hand is creating portable, easily privately owned, artworks that intentionally build on the continuity of environmental materials (clay) and cultural artifacts (vessels) but are transformed into an “activist object.” She makes things out of clay that this planet already has too many of —liter-sized plastic bottles, but in the ancient tradition of the Mata Ortiz pottery of Mexico. Her objective is to respect and carry on the ancient medium and process, but to leave “an ethical trace” as reference to who and where we are now.
Some of the best questions left on the group table, unanswered, include: How does an artist not become a “brand” that can eventually be at risk of going out of style and discarded while pursuing multiple scale objects that can be purchased by a variety of supporters? Is the subject of one’s art the “type” of artist they are (read, “label”), or is it how you work as an artist that defines what “type” of artist one is? Is making an object about the environment just illustrating the (environmental) problem? How is that different than reading about it in the news? And finally, how can an artistic experience be conveyed in ways other than the object that can still yield revenue?

Panel moderator and exhibition curator, Nancy Zastudil’s passion for answers to these questions clearly stems from her unending passion and desire to support artists. I share her sentiments and through these conversations maybe we’ll all find our most creative outlets to support artists, support art enthusiasts and support the growing need for all to live a creative and art filled life. Special thanks to 516 ARTS for hosting the panel and audience discussion amidst the incredibly inspirational exhibit, Knew Normal, up now through the end of October – go see this amazing art!

Sherri Brueggemann is the City of Albuquerque Public Art Urban Enhancement Program Manager and a member of the Advisory Board of 516 ARTS.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Mel Chin in Albuquerque

by Suzanne Sbarge

I was fortunate to spend a few days with guest artist Mel Chin, who came to Albuquerque September 8-12 to give the keynote talk for HABITAT: Exploring Climate Change Through the Arts. As we shared meals and I drove him around town, I got to hear about whatever was on his mind – from his haunting adventures visiting Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria to try to help their plight; to his latest plan for a climate change awareness campaign staged in Paris with an Inuit driving a sled powered by poodles.

Mel Chin is a featured artist in both Knew Normal about climate change curated by Nancy Zastudil at 516 ARTS and Necessary Force: Art in the Police State at UNM Art Museum. So, in his talk at UNM, he chose to encompass the topics of both of these separate exhibitions. He started with singing a prison song by Leadbelly that led him into the subjects of racism and police violence, and ended with an introduction to The Potential Project about the creation of a model solar economy in the Western Sahara. In between, he described some of his projects over the years, many of which deal with exposing inequality and addressing environmental justice. Through each of these efforts, he serves as a temporary representative and convener for people not given voice in issues that are affecting them in dire ways. Although dealing with serious topics, his approach is steeped in humor and his own unique form of untamed imagination.
Zastudil says, “Mel Chin was one of the first artist's on my list for Knew Normal because of his ability to create art objects that are both informed and formed by culture and environment. For example, I first saw his installation of Spirit at the Columbus Museum of Art when I was an undergraduate art student at The Ohio State University. This dramatic, multi-layered work consists of a one-ton barrel, or cask, balanced on a thick rope of braided native grasses indigenous to the American Prairie. The piece depicts and embodies the ‘uneasy relationship between industrial and agricultural America, and nature throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.’ I attribute much of my interest in art and environment to Mel and my experience with Spirit.”

“The most subversive thing you can do is to get the ones who always say no to say yes.” 

For his smaller roundtable discussion at 516 ARTS the day after his keynote, Chin described his latest concept called Les Arctiques a Paris for artCOP21 in Paris this fall, which features artists from around the globe presenting public art projects in conjunction with the 21st United Nations’ summit on climate change. 20,000 delegates from countries around the world are anticipated to convene to make commitments to programs that address climate change. Of course artists want to be part of this important moment.

Chin is envisioning Les Arctiques a Paris as a video public service announcement that provokes a an emotional wake-up kind of moment, like the crying Indian or the Coke commercial in the 1970s, but not selling anything. The video will depict an Inuit sled driver driving a sled through Paris powered by trained poodles. The Inuit man will convey this message: “5000 years of Arctic culture is now dying. The Arctic is Paris. This melt is already affecting you. Everything you know about where you live will be different now. The Arctic is no more.”

Chin believes we can’t stop climate change, but we have to look at connection and adaptation or we won’t make it. He said, “Get ready for the age of altruism. We have to find out how we will relate to each other now or we will just kill each other. The key is behavioral modification of ourselves. The option of doing nothing is the most boring thing. Let’s get busy here people.”


When asked about his way of working, Mel said he started the first ecology club in 1969 at his high school in Texas. “I work in an evolutionary mutated basis. I do research.” His mind jumps around a lot, but always comes back to his clarity of vision, making powerful connections across the realms of art, science and politics with a sensitivity to issues of inequity. When asked, “Do you ever just draw?”, he responded, “Yes all the time. When I was young I took a year and a half to recover from a breakdown. I was in a completely catatonic state. When I came out of that, I realized drawing is a joy. Everyone can be taught to draw. I can never regain the sensitivity that was vaporized by shock therapy. Maybe that’s why I do what I do. If you want to learn to draw, get a pencil and start… Any avenue to open up or criticize your consciousness is good.”

Mel highlighted the book The Body in Pain by Elaine Scary, which is about the inexpressibility of things like human pain. Scary says there are only two camps of people and activities: 1. The Unmaking of the World, which equals pain and leads to war and torture, and removes the capacity for imagination and language; and 2. The Making of the World, which equals imagination, representing the beginning of language and it remakes the world. He said, “I am in the camp of the imagination.”

In his conclusion, he said, “The most subversive thing you can do is to get the ones who always say no to say yes.” He advised that as artists and cultural workers we need to devise strategies for how to convert people through creating empathy, which can be done by confronting them with something awesome. He said, “It doesn’t always have to be political. That’s art. The dogs in Paris will be awesome. You have to do things to excite people. In his parting words to a rapt group of artists and community members gathered around him in front of his installation for The Potential Project, he referenced Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech about creating change: “From time immemorial we have been taught to value self-preservation first. It’s false. The rule of life is the preservation of the other. You can apply it to anything we’re doing, including art and climate change. How do you preserve the life and mindset of someone else? It’s a powerful lesson in how to be human.”


Nuggets of wisdom from dinner with Mel Chin, distilled by Nancy Zastudil:


Having / finding / creating options is vital, and even exciting.

Connect with those things that have helped us persevere up until now (creativity, humanity, empathy, survival, joy, love, sadness and more).

It’s not about the masses, it’s about the individual.

Martin Luther King Jr. taught that we cannot preserve ourselves without preserving other-selves (love each other).

We are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—we are compelled.

Did you attend the talks? Please let us know what you thought in the comments below!