Julio Salgado Mural
For our first issue of 2017, we asked eight contributors: what can art do in times of social and political turmoil? This line of inquiry seemed undeniable – rearing its head in the poignant essays in our last issue Art + Citizenship, the driving force behind post-election actions across the country, and at the center of how we as an arts publishing organization were evaluating our own efficacy as an arts publishing organization.
We sought out a range of voices whose vocations include: art critic, curator, professor, radical organizer, visual artist. The responses we received surprised us. Taken together, these essays shake up the very framework of the issue as we laid it out, breaking up our well-groomed inquiry into a complex cluster of meaning. Too, there is a distinct personal tenor to the narratives in this issue, one we don’t often see in arts writing. I take this as a sign that those of us that teach, advocate, institutionalize, or historicize art should be asking ourselves the same question. Art can do a lot of things, but the real question seems to be: what can we do? Art is just one of many areas under serious threat in our current landscape. Looking to radical visionaries that came before us and those that walk among us now, many of our writers summon an incredible invocation of the future through their writing. Art can help us see differently, to imagine better realities. It’s time to put our imaginations to work, or we risk being implicated in fortifying the same systems we hope to crumble. Look to art. Act swiftly. As Vivian Sming notes in her essay, “Art can’t do anything if we don’t.”—Kara Q. Smith