Creating Citizen Artists



Last night, I attended a discussion hosted by The Music Center and The Aspen Institute Arts Program. The panel, “The Citizen Artists Public Forum” explored ways in which artists serve as activists in their communities both as vehicles of self-expression for underserved populations and emerging citizens (i.e. children) as well as potential agents of change in the social and political landscape (i.e. Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster of Obama).

With participants that included musicians, actors, dancers, arts administrators, policy makers and social activists — including the lovely Alfre Woodard and Homeboy Industries Founder Greg Boyle —  the evening was a whirlwind tour of ideas and practice. The most striking comment came from former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Damian Woetzel, who pointed out that as technology was once considered an adjunct part of our lives but is now integral to our daily existence, so can art and the creative thinking of artists become a fully integrated facet of a functional society.

Here is a video that demonstrates a bit of the magic that happens when artists from different disciplines come together. It’s shows break dancer Charles “Lil Buck” Riley interpreting the classical music of acclaimed violinist Yo-Yo Ma. We were lucky to witness Charles dancing to live music by violinist Midori and the incongruous merger of two disparate mediums was beautiful. The third video in the link features Charles dancing on the streets of LA to “Aria” by Black Swan choreographer Benjamin Millepied.