The Next Conversation: “Artists as Activists”

Event Date: Tuesday, April 17, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle


The Summary

We’re coming into the 2018 campaign season, and it’s going to be an all hands on deck scenario. It’s pretty apparent that artists may have a unique role to play in politics. And in the face of the recent King County Council power grab with 4Culture and other issues, the need to better organize locally becomes increasingly apparent.

Read on below for details.

The Guests (see guest bios below)

Julie Chang Schulman, Hip Hop artist, community organizer

Laura Dean, artist, designer, organizer

And we’re working on getting one or two more.


The Story

This time we’re revisiting the topic of art and politics (March 2016: “Art and Politics”) with a deeper focus to the actual work that artists can do in the political sphere. 

It’s key that many of us must learn the everyday skills of effective political engagement: canvassing, telephoning, fundraising, motivating. But artists, by the very nature of their training and their work in worlds of imagination, also have special powers to do things that can have outsized effects in politics. Whether by creating effective graphics, making powerful video, or doing good street theater, artists can have the ability to reach people. One of the clearest examples is Shepard Fairey’s “Obama Hope” image. It became the unofficial visual of the Obama campaign and has spawned countless spin-offs. Or Eminem’s Mosh video from 2004 comes to mind. Locally, so do ACED’s hip hop events in support of equitable development. There are countless other examples. 

While we are focused on the make-or-break nature of the 2018 national elections, it’s worth noting that any political power, even on the national scale, comes from effective local organizing. The intransigence of our county government, in issues ranging from the new youth jail to the power grab at 4Culture, makes good local organizing critically important. 

Finally, a bit of soapbox. One of the truisms about democracy, or even a state that makes any substantial claim toward being a democracy, is that the people get the government they deserve. That’s not just a matter of who gets voted into office. Instead, it’s more about how the citizens of that democracy live their lives.

I’ve heard too many people say “I need to take a break from politics,” or “I’m burned out on politics,” as if politics is something that we can leave behind, or turn off and on. There’s the old phrase, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” (first use credited to many people, including Irish politician John Philpott Curran in 1790 and American abolitionist Wendell Phillips in 1852). But I’m afraid that the phrase is incorrect, or at least only partly accurate. Vigilance is easy, especially in a day of information overload. In fact, excessive vigilance may be what’s driving some of us to burnout. What’s more important is engagement. It’s simple: the responsibility of living in a democracy is engagement, locally and nationally, staying involved as a way of life, and maybe a way of art.

Come and talk about it.


The Guests in Detail

Laura Dean studied psychology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she worked and volunteered with at-risk youth. In 2001, she moved to Seattle to explore how her creative interests could be used to cultivate positive social change. While a security guard at SAM and the Frye, she taught herself animation and web design and then moved to San Francisco to pursue a MA in interaction design. In 2008, she organized a rural county in Wisconsin for Obama before returning to Seattle. Since then she’s worked as an animator, illustrator, hack coder and most predominantly a User Experience Designer, on multiple projects with creative agencies and start-ups, while volunteering for progressive causes on the side. Currently she’s a Director of User Experience with MyGrove, a small start-up based out of Brooklyn. She was a volunteer organizer with the Bernie campaign. For her, it’s not about winning one election; it‘s about changing the trajectory of US politics.

Julie C, also known as Julie Chang Schulman, is an explosive lyricist, educator, and Hip Hop community organizer. Emceeing since her early teens, Julie C hails from the legendary Alpha Platoon crew of Seattle, a dynamic underground collective that has produced some of the most influential and stylistically advanced artists and groups in the Northwest. She is an organizer with the Artist Coalition for Equitable Development.

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