Art2Action and Animating Democracy presented Art, Race, and Dialogue, the second event in the series Animating Democracy: REFLECTING FORWARD, livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 13 October 2022 at 1 p.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 3 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 4 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).
For more than two decades, Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, has created spaces for critical exchange and catalytic learning in the field. In supporting projects on the ground, so many issues and questions were raised and addressed by artists, cultural organizations, and their community partners. Many of these issues and questions persist, but in a changed and more charged context. In three fall events, the Animating Democracy: Reflecting Forward series considers the practice and progress of community-based and socially/civically-engaged art and culture over recent decades and its promise now and into the future. Each session brings together trailblazing artists and cultural leaders from Animating Democracy’s founding years and a new generation of leading-edge practitioners and thought leaders from the arts and other sectors. Through the lens of their work, featured speakers and artists will help articulate critical questions of the day and for the future of arts and culture work as a spark, invitation, and space for social and civic change.
Watch the livestream on this page, or register here to join the Zoom room, receive reminders, and request a free copy of the groundbreaking book Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy.
Session Two: Art, Race, and Dialogue
In the context of countless murders of Black people, racially-motivated assaults on Asian and Arab Americans, and continuing systemic and structural racism against Black, Indigenous/First Nations, and people of color communities, art and artists can advance meaningful, transformative dialogue and racial reckoning. What should our expectations be for art as a change agent, and what is the role of dialogue in this pursuit? How can art be most potent and effective in disrupting entrenched patterns of thinking and feeling? What are the fulcrum points on the path to change? The artists and leaders in this session explore this path, from deepening understanding, to shifting minds and hearts, to healing historical wounds, to advancing actions, policies, and systemic and structural change. Addressing themes of emotional intelligence, culpability and complicity, and apology and forgiveness, Kim Pevia will facilitate an exchange between artists Katrina Browne and James Scruggs. Through the lens of their radically different artistic approaches, they will examine the role of art to disrupt narratives, reveal complicity, deepen dialogue, and make progress toward truth and reconciliation.
With launching support from Animating Democracy, Katrina Browne produced and directed the documentary film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, initially created for white audiences to support intragroup dialogue about white privilege. In the film, having learned that Katrina’s New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in United States history, she and nine cousins retraced the Triangle Trade on a literal journey from Bristol, Rhode Island to Ghana, to Cuba, and gained powerful new perspectives on the historical and lasting impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on race relations and systemic racism in the United States today. The film has been widely disseminated for fifteen years, with significant sustained involvement by Katrina and family members, as an educational and dialogue catalyst, in reparations efforts and other contexts.
James Scruggs creates large-scale, topical, theatrical, multi-media work looking at difficult issues of race and inequity, often deploying satire and humor to provoke emotion and thought. One of his past works, 3/Fifths’ Supremacyland, takes its name from the “three-fifths compromise” of 1787, which counted slaves as only three-fifths a person. In 3/Fifths, James created a radically interactive, immersive experience of white privilege that lets you choose your race when you get in the door. In his multi-year, multi-project commitment to addressing race in the United States, other works include Disposable Men and Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show. While his work may implicate the viewer and cause discomfort, through creative devices he seeks to create an engaged space that does not harm. His new work in development explores what truth and reconciliation would look like in the United States if we achieved it.
More About the Artists
Katrina Browne produced and directed the Emmy-nominated film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North with co-directors Alla Kovgan and Jude Ray, and co-producers Juanita Brown and Elizabeth Delude-Dix. The documentary follows Browne and nine relatives on a journey to reckon with their slave-trading ancestors from Rhode Island, the hidden history of the U.S. North’s complicity in slavery, and questions of privilege and repair today. Traces premiered at Sundance in 2008, and then aired nationwide on the PBS series P.O.V. In the last fifteen years, it has contributed significantly to growing public awareness of the role of the North in slavery. Among the many ripple effects was the film’s contribution to the Episcopal Church’s decision to apologize and atone for its role in slavery. Katrina has traveled extensively with the film to schools, universities, museums, faith institutions, and professional conferences, for example, helping to improve how slavery is taught in schools and interpreted at historic sites. The work has been funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, including a seminal grant from Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, among many others. Since 2018, Katrina has worked for the Episcopal Church. She authored a film-based race dialogue series for congregations called Sacred Ground that has been completed by more than twenty thousand people. As a dancer with InterPlay, she is moved to be part of a community of people exploring embodied wisdom about race, racism, and whiteness.
Kim Pevia is an experienced life strategist, an engaging keynote speaker, and a skilled, experiential-styled, transformational workshop facilitator. Her company, K.A.P. Inner Prizes, specializes in identifying and addressing the issues that can keep us stuck by continually developing a personalized toolbox to help us hurdle over them. Her favorite work is done in circles. Her favorite topics include: emotional intelligence, gifts of conflict, impacts of historical trauma, cultural healing, and the innocuous nature of fear, most of which she includes in race, equity and inclusion work. She serves on many local, state, and national boards that support community activism and the local economy through arts, food, culture, and tourism. She is the President of the Board of Alternate ROOTS, an organization of activist artists in the South. Born and educated in Baltimore, Maryland, she currently lives in Robeson County, North Carolina, where her roots run deep as a member of the Lumbee Tribe. She is a writer and the founder of Artist Market-Pembroke, providing retail opportunities for local and regional artists in southeastern North Carolina. Her love of community and films led her to be the curator of the annual Lumbee Film Festival (along with Cucalorus Film Festival of Wilmington), and the monthly CommUnity Cinema (in partnership with Working Films).
James Scruggs is a writer, performer, producer, and screenwriter who creates large-scale, topical, theatrical, multi-media, and virtual work focused on inequity or gender politics. In 2018, he created MELT!, a site-specific immersive, interactive, satirical work commissioned by The High Line. He was awarded a 2015 MAP Grant and a 2016 Creative Capital Grant, to create 3/Fifths. Performed in May 2017, it was a fully immersive, interactive ethno-theme park, exploring race and racism called SupremacyLand. His November 2017 Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show was about how unarmed Black men are still feared and legally killed. It received an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Fringe Production in Boston. He recently produced and performed a virtual piece called Severe Clear, exploring the limited choices that people trapped in the World Trade Center were faced with. James Scruggs is an active member of The Filmshop Writers Den and the Harlem TV Writers Group. He was selected as one of eighteen writers to bring an original theatrical work to The Apollo in the Spring of 2022. He is currently working on a theatrical social justice project, Off The Record (co-commissioned by Art2Action, ArtsEmerson, The Center at West Park, and the National Performance Network) which confronts head on the effects of mass incarceration. In New York City, Boston, and Tampa, three to five BIPOC with criminal records will be identified, paired with a lawyer, and have their records expunged, and their stories will be shared theatrically. James Scruggs has a BFA in Film from School of Visual Arts.
Save the dates for the final session of the series!
Session Three: Artistic Imagination as a Force for Change
Friday 18 November, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. ET (New York, UTC -4)
Featuring: adrienne maree brown, author and writer-in-residence at the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, and choreographer Jawole Zollar, founder and visioning partner of Urban Bush Women, facilitated by culture strategist Sage Crump