“In Order to Survive, We Create”: A Selective History of Sonny Assu

“Trickster” is the word that Janet Rogers uses to describe artist Sonny Assu in her forward to his recently published collection, Sonny Assu: A Selective History. The term seems very fitting. Like Raven or Coyote, Assu’s art is mischievously clever. He is both a thief and a creator, taking hungrily from the world around him

Four Ways to Shift Culture Toward Justice

The struggle for the soul of U.S. culture is heating up. White supremacy and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise, along with attacks on truth and accountability. Meanwhile, social movements are helping us to reckon with how society (de)values Black lives and the stories of cis and trans women facing sexual abuse. Groups across the

Culturally Sustaining Civics: Questioning the Civic Achievement Gap

  Every generation, it seems, worries that the next one is not as politically active as it should be. But, in recent decades, a new concern has emerged: “gaps” in civic knowledge and participation in the US along lines of race and class. According to a number of researchers, youth from low-income Communities of Color score lower

Art in a Time of Emergency

Photo: Mirror Shileds at Standing Rock, Designed by Cannupa Hanska Luger These days, it seems like we are in a constant state of emergency. Last week’s terror attack against anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville is only one in a string of

Futurism, Futurity, and the Importance of the Existential Imagination

In arts and social change work, we talk about the importance of being able to imagine a future that is better — more just — than the world we live in today. But often the struggle is a more existential one: imagining a future where one’s community or culture exists at all. Last year I

Creating Art That’s Needed: An Interview with Mat Schwarzman

When I was starting out as a community-based arts educator in Chicago, the Beginners Guide to Community-Based Arts — with its welcoming, bright-yellow cover — was one of the most thumbed-through books on my shelf. Recently I had the chance

Creative Catalyst: An Interview with De Andrea Nichols

I recently had the privilege of talking with De Andrea Nichols, award winning social impact designer and “creative catalyst.” De is the director of Civic Creatives, and received the 2016 Visionary Award for community impact in the city of St.

How do you visualize a world you haven’t yet seen?

Earlier this year, I did some graphics work for the Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC), a group whose mission is to radically re-imagine family engagement in schools and other institutions. It turned out to be one of the toughest design challenges I’ve faced. In this post, I want to share a bit of that design process with you. The back-and-forth that