Art or Nothing

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Brattleboro >> Recently, I have been thinking about the following question: When you create, will you just create, or will you create in order to create change?

This has surfaced due to all of the hoopla around Beyonce's tribute to the Black Panthers during the Super Bowl and seeing another artist Kendrick Lamar do a Grammy's performance in which his dancers came out like a prison chain gang. This was Lamar's social commentary on the police brutality happening in America.

You don't have to be a fan of Hip-Hop, listen to Beyonce, or even own a television to witness the rise and fall of how art has been used as a platform to create change. There have been many historical moments in which artists or creatives have challenged social convention. We could look at this through a lens of various artistic movements that surfaced in an attempt to challenge social norms. We could look at specific art forms or genres that were created as a form of open rebellion against the current establishment at the time. For example,Capoeira is a mix of dance, movement and martial arts but some evidence links its roots to African slaves who were transported from West Africa to Brazil. The 1940s saw the rise of beat poets challenging and questioning the status quo after World War II

There are many articles and journals that raise the question of including or involving art and artists in social change, but they have the approach all wrong. Artists, creatives and makers of all stripes have often been the catalysts of social change through their body movements, their canvasses, songs, writing, and many other forms of creating.

So what shall we do as artists? Is it our role to create or use our creativity as a vehicle for change? According to Nina Simone, it is our duty.

The Arts Council of Windham County (ACWC) is celebrating 36 years of Student Art Month, which takes place during the month of March. Throughout the years, we have celebrated blossoming young artists in Windham County while recognizing the teachers and school infrastructures that help these students flourishing. ACWC has partnered with venues, schools, and teachers to arrange activities featuring the work of young artists throughout Windham County.

Between eight and ten county high schools participate in Student Art Month, as well as many elementary and middle schools, and there are approximately three hundred pieces of art entered in the high school art show alone. Festivities always begin with the opening of the High School Visual Art Show during the March Gallery Walk. This year, the 2D works will be hung at the River Garden Gallery, 167 Main St., including photography, and the 3D works will be at the Vermont Artisans Designs Gallery 2, 106 Main St., 2nd floor.

The shows will open at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, to coincide with Gallery Walk. There will be a reception at the River Garden from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. This year's band, "Bad To Be Good," is an Eastern Country and Northern Blues dance band. We are sharing the space with the Brattleboro Time Trade, who will be doing their fundraiser in the River Garden on the same evening.

Artwork created by high school students are judged by a panel of professional artists. Awards are given for Best of Show in eleven different categories and Special Commendations to many high school student artists. The public also has the opportunity to vote for their favorite pieces in our "People's Choice Awards" as the show continues throughout the month.

This year, ACWC is grateful to have received two grants to help with expenses of Student Art Month: from the Crosby-Gannett Fund and the Dunham Mason Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation. We send our thanks to both of these wonderful sponsors.


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