Arts-Policy Nexus

WPI LOGOArtsEverywhere has partnered with the World Policy Institute to co-present the Arts-Policy Nexus, a fortnightly series of articles on the role of art in public policymaking. This series invites WPI fellows and external practitioners to contribute pieces on how artists lead policy change and how policymakers use creative strategies.

Reclaiming Cartography, Photography, and Colonial Imagery

Kristine Jordan, New York 

Fifty-eight years ago, the Malagasy Republic was declared an autonomous state within an association of countries known as the French Community. Much like other nations that fought for independence well into the second half of the 20th century, elements of colonial power dynamics are evident in Madagascar’s modern cultural productions....

Haawiyat: A Syrian Comic for Syrian Children

Monica Rodriguez, New York City 

After fleeing Syria, a nation badly bloodied by civil war, refugees are finding themselves trapped in migratory limbo for long stretches of time as they await placement in foreign, and often unwelcoming, lands. Of the staggering 4.9 million displaced Syrians currently residing in refugee camps, nearly half are children. Syrian...

The Emerging Indie Music Industry in Saudi Arabia

Melody Chan, New York City 

During his performance for a group of students in New York in April, Saudi musician Diya Azzony prompted the audience to ask him questions about anything from his musical technique to his life story to his politics. This open exchange was exactly what Azzony hoped to facilitate during his four-day...

A Re-imagination of Policy and Health

Nicolle Bennett, New York 

View or download the full report as a PDF: A Re-imagination of Policy and Health The active citizen voice is increasingly recognized as essential to holistic policy formation and health creation, as health policies begin to incorporate a broader set of health determinants and providers embrace more engaged, co-creative approaches to health/care....

Embed in Egypt

Jakob Sergei Weitz, New York City 

Emine Gozde Sevim is a Turkish photographer who lived in Egypt from 2011 to 2013, during the revolution to overthrow former President Hosni Mubarak and the tumultuous years that followed. Her photos capture the personal stories and memories that make up the complex lives of the people that lived through...

A Mirror Covered in Dust

Jakob Sergei Weitz, New York City 

The movie China’s 3Dreams, screened in New York as part of the Brooklyn Film Festival, is a documentary filmed on location over 10 years by Australian filmmaker Nick Torrens. According to Torrens, in the 1970s the “Chinese Dream” was “a watch, a radio, and a bicycle.” Today, the new generation’s dream...

Negative Publicity

Jakob Sergei Weitz, New York City 

From the 2001 declaration of the war on terror until 2008, an unknown number of people disappeared into a secret network of “Black Site” prisons and holding cells organized by the CIA. In March 2009, a seemingly normal breach of contract court case involving an aviation company, Richmor Aviation, and...

Life is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara

Atul Bhattarai, New York 

The conflict in Western Sahara, a contested territory in the western Maghreb, seldom draws international attention. Last month, however, Western Sahara made headlines after it was reported that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a visit to Algeria, had referred to Morocco’s presence in the territory as an “occupation.” Ban, who...

Building “The Eternal Sukkah”

Graham Lawson, Tel Aviv 

This article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post. In July 2014, Diego Rotman and Lea Mauas, two Israeli artists who operate under the alias Sala-manca, began a process that involved the purchase of a Bedouin house, the materials of which they intended to use for the building of a...

African Cultural Heritage in Brazil

Thiago de Paula Souza, São Paulo 

A version of this article was originally published in Portuguese by Goethe-Institut São Paulo, Episodes of the South project. By Thiago de Paula Souza There are several examples about the image of the black population in Brazilian art history. During the past 500 years, black people have been often portrayed exotically, erasing all the conflict...

What Can Be Done?

Jeni Fulton, Berlin 

This article was originally published by Spike Art Magazine. Since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party (AKP) unexpectedly won an outright electoral victory in November 2015, activists, artists, academics, and journalists who have raised their voices against government policy have faced arrests and persecution. Spike Art Magazine spoke to artist Ahmet...

Female Peacekeepers

Atul Bhattarai, New York 

In 2013, responding to an initiative of the United Nations to recruit more women peacekeepers, Bangladesh created one of the first all-female Formed Police Units in U.N. peacekeeping, drawing from its own national police force. In June of that year, the unit was deployed to the United Nations Stabilization Mission...

Changing Senegal Through Rap: Y’en a Marre

Atul Bhattarai, New York 

The Senegalese rap group Y’en a Marre, meaning “fed up,” has ambitions that go beyond simple entertainment. Founded in 2011, the group promotes democracy and good governance by engaging the Senegalese people through its music. In 2012, it drew international attention for helping to vote the president, Abdoulaye Wade, out...

Enclaves of Struggle

Raphael Daibert, São Paulo 

Borders do not only exist between countries, but also inside urban spaces. The São Paulo megalopolis is full of borders, be they subtle or concrete, and the homeless population and recently arrived refugees struggle for their right to exist there. A version of this article was originally published in Portuguese by Goethe-Institut São Paulo,...

Immigration and Identity

Atul Bhattarai, New York 

Immigrants of any kind often face a personal dilemma: Who are they in a new, foreign space? A group of four immigrant and foreign-born artists were confronted with that question in the course of volunteering with elderly immigrants—through “multilingual art-making projects, recreation activities, and conversations”—as part of an Engaging Artists...

Artist Residencies in New York City

Jose Serrano-McClain, New York City 

In December 2014, Tania Bruguera, a New York-based Cuban artist, was arrested in Havana after refusing to cancel a planned open mic performance at the Plaza of the Revolution. Last July, she was made the first artist-in-residence at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Now, the New...

The Cost of Telling the Truth

Sidd Joag, New York City 

After living in hiding for six years in the United States, journalist C.M. Rien Kuntari is ready to go home. “I don’t want to live the rest of my life as a prisoner or as a political asylee. I want to go home as a free person,” she says. Since...

“Repellent Fence” Stares Across the U.S.-Mexican Border

Karina Taylor, New York City 

For four days in October this year, the Mexican-American border featured a curious kind of boundary: a two-mile line of yellow, helium-filled balloons, painted with unblinking eyes, floating 50 feet above the ground. World Policy Journal corresponded with the designers of this “Repellent Fence,” the art collective Postcommodity, on the...

The Nest Mural

Steve Frost, Vancouver 

I’m standing on the corner of Heatley and Hastings in front a large mural on the side of the Mikado building. On the left are cherry blossoms, in pastel pinks and violets. Moving right along the wall the blossoms morph into birds, and at the far right the birds settle...

Why Democracy Needs Arts and Culture

Jaroslav Andel, Prague & New York 

Is democracy in retreat? We see the rise of authoritarian regimes and the success of populist parties in Europe, trends that impact states, regions, and even local communities. There is growing inequality in the U.S. and Europe, ethnic violence in Middle Eastern countries such as Israel and Iraq, and to...

Immersed in Context: Jakub Szczesny

Karina Taylor, New York City 

Polish architect Jakub Szczesny’s ambitions go well beyond designing another dull glass skyscraper. From imagining an artificial island that purifies water through coordinated human exercise, to creating the world’s narrowest house to dialogue with Warsaw’s architectural past, Szczesny’s inventive answers to unusual challenges have received international acclaim. Through a series...

Urban Vignettes from São Paulo, Part II

Todd Lanier Lester, São Paulo 

In Part II of “Urban Vignettes”, World Policy Senior Fellow Todd Lanier Lester expands on his ideas, applying a global perspective to how public urban development projects can affect property values and social outcomes for communities around the globe. In the first part of this essay, I wrote about the...

Documenting Survival in ‘Women as Witness’

Laurel Jarombek, New York City 

Women as Witness, a new exhibition at TI Art Studios in Brooklyn, documents a wide variety of perspectives on violence, confinement, and gender roles by featuring female artists from nine different countries. The purpose of the exhibition is to portray resistance, survival, and resilience through the medium of photography, and...

Art, Ethnography, and Exorcism in El Barrio

Sidd Joag, New York City 

This past July, I traveled with a journalist, German Andino, and the subject of his new graphic novel, Pastor Daniel Pacheco. We visited Rivera Hernandez, a colony of 59 barrios located on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula and, statistically, one of the most violent urban areas in the world....

‘Beirut Mutations’

Samer Mohdad, Beirut 

When popular uprisings were taking place in the countries bordering Lebanon, my book and subsequent exhibition project Beirut Mutations were only just starting to take shape. While many around the world were observing the unfolding developments with hope, I had the feeling that what other Arab countries were experiencing had...

When Art Becomes “Invisual”

Virginia Cimino, Paris 

When we talk about art, we are typically referring to a tangible object, a visual representation in the form of a painting or a sculpture. But what if art can exist without a visual dimension, in the form of an “invisual” practice? The imaginative concept of “invisual” art is among...

Studio Gad: The Value of Visual Memory

Katharina von Schroeder, Wuppertal 

In a country where the public has hardly any access to visual heritage, historic footage can spark an enlightening and controversial debate. I met Sara Gadalla for the first time in December 2010, when she invited me to see the endangered heritage of her father, the late pioneer in Sudanese...

Syria is Mine, Even in These Surreal Ruins of War

Honey Al Sayed, Washington D.C. 

For the past five years, more than 12 million Syrians have been displaced. Resiliently and arduously surviving, Syrians have witnessed a revolution, armed conflicts, the use of chemical weapons, and the domination of Islamist radicals over diplomatic and political narratives on Syria. They have witnessed the unjust deaths of over...

Renewal, Not Replacement

Ross Curtner, Toronto 

Decades ago, English art critic John Berger defined the purpose of art as “to help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights.” All too often, these rights are compromised in the process of urban renewal. The mastermind of modern New York City, Robert Moses, famously illustrated the...

Urban Vignettes from São Paulo, Part I

Todd Lanier Lester, São Paulo 

In the first of a two-part series, World Policy Senior Fellow Todd Lanier Lester details two separate incidents of theft-at-gunpoint in São Paulo. He illustrates the role urban development plays in creating a culture of criminal activity. Perhaps the title to this piece will send a shiver of alarm down...

Art, Policy, and Wellness

Jordan Clifford,  

What would a policy that incorporates our ideas of medicine look like? On Friday, May 1, Artist Roundtable (A.RT) sought to answer this question during its third event, hosted by the World Policy Institute’s Arts-Policy Nexus. Developed by Todd Lester, director of Arts-Policy Nexus, A.RT is an approach to bridging...

Revisiting the Past, Redefining the Future

Eunsun Cho, New York City 

Goethe once wrote, “There is no surer method of evading the world than by following art, and no surer method of linking oneself to it than by art.” Indeed, art often shelters people from harsh realities, but it can also become a channel for reconnecting them with society. In South...

Countering IS’s Theft and Destruction of Mesopotamia

Mark V. Vlasic, Washington, D.C. 
Dr. Helga Turku, Miami 

Described by UNESCO as “one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world,” the archeological city of Palmyra is a celebrated World Heritage Site in Syria. Although the site has survived numerous empires and wars over thousands of years, the city now faces extinction. In May, the Islamic...

The Lebanese National Tabbouleh Day

Ricardo Mbarkho, Beirut 

The Lebanese National Tabbouleh Day is observed on the first Saturday of July as an annual festival dedicated to Tabbouleh, a traditional Lebanese dish. On this day, Lebanese, non-Lebanese, and their friends across the world gather in private or in public around this dish. With Tabbouleh being the common ground for...

Follow the Zebra: An Interview with Philippe Brunot

Eunsun Cho, New York City 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Independent filmmaker Philippe Brunot has committed himself to the mammoth task of producing a series of films about the lives and dreams of miners around the world. In May 2015, he released the first installment in the series, Follow the Zebra,...

Dancing to Reconcile

Gloria Hage, New York City 

The wounds of war linger long after the battle is over. The Vietnam War may have ended forty years ago, but the war wounds endure for the soldiers who fought, the protesters who resisted U.S. involvement, the Vietnamese refugees who were forced to leave their homeland for America, and the...

Returning to Homs

Evan Gottesman, New York City 

On April 8, BAMcinematek screened Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki’s documentary, Return to Homs, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The movie is a forceful journey through the ongoing Syrian Civil War, bringing viewers from the early nonviolent demonstrations into the most brutal stages of the current military confrontation. “This documentary...

New Approaches to the Art of Well-Being

Alyssa Stein, New York City 

Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently began a very unique outreach strategy designed to combat the stigma surrounding mental health and psychiatric hospitals. Through its newest partnership with Dutch arts-residence program Beautiful Distress Foundation, and additional help from New York-based non-profit Residency Unlimited, Dutch artists have taken residency...

Dancing Under Fire

Jonathan Hollander, New York City 

Battery Dance Company in Amman, Jordan spent time working with Iraqi dancer Adil Qais Adil, preparing him to perform with the New York-based company at the Amman Contemporary Dance Festival and the Amman Jazz Festival. Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander reflects on the experience of meeting for the first time with...

Forced to Flee

Sidd Joag, New York City 

The summer of 2007 was the first time I visited Ruili City, a dusty port town located in a tight corner on the China-Burma border in Yunnan province. At the time, Ruili was China’s dirty little secret. Colloquially referred to as the ‘Las Vegas of China,’ it was the primary...

Hydrotropism: Lessons from Ficus Elastica

Thiago Gonçalves, São Paulo 

The directional growth of plant roots towards water availability is what scientists call hydrotropism. The latter half of the term, “tropism,” is meant to describe the physiological response of an organism to a stimulus. Aside from any dry, technical definitions, it is through these processes that we see how an...

Dengue Fever: A Different Kind of Rock Revival

Evan Gottesman, New York City 

A half-century ago, Phnom Penh was a major hub for rock and roll. Cambodians turned out to concerts and tuned into their radios to hear the music of Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea. The rock scene in the capital thrived for over a decade, producing a musical genre that combined...

The “Depths:” Visual Culture in the Murder Capital of the World

Sidd Joag, New York City 

It is widely held that Honduras acquired its name from Christopher Columbus, who upon surviving a tropical storm off the Caribbean coast allegedly commented, “Gracia a Dios que hemos salido de estas Honduras,” or “Thank God we survived those treacherous depths.” Strategically located on the Caribbean between the Mosquito Coast...

Looking Back on Charlie Hebdo

Todd Lanier Lester, São Paulo 

The day following the Charlie Hebdo attack, I was in line at a public notary office in São Paulo. The local news televised footage of the massacre, relayed on a flat screen meant to placate those of us waiting for an official stamp on this or that official document. My...

Celebrating Transition from Apartheid to Democracy

Edwin Cameron, Johannesburg 
Albie Sach, Johannesburg 

This is a repost of an article that first appeared on African Futures of the SSRC. By Justice Edwin Cameron and Justice Albie Sachs At the entrance to the Constitutional Court of South Africa stands a sculpture of a large man yoked to a cart. His burden is a human one: a...

Pencil vs. Kalashnikov

Damien Glez, Ouagadougou 

“We killed Charlie Hebdo.” On January 7, as if they wanted to sign their barbaric act with the ultimate mark of weakness, invaders of the headquarters of the weekly Charlie Hebdo shouted their idiocies in the streets of Paris. No, the satirical publication has not been killed. Quite the contrary,...

What Makes Us “Happy?”

Adam Echelman, New York City 

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth,” Pharrell Williams sings, dancing down a corridor in an LAX airport terminal. Whether his song lyrics mean something to you or not, the November music video to his hit single “Happy” has ignited an international craze. Almost 150 countries and...

Adjacent Possibilities in Action

Scott Baker, Toronto 

Climate disruption is a unique challenge that calls on society to invoke unprecedented imagination and ingenuity to address. Yet, with our current paradigms, we are failing to address climate disruption and other large scale complex issues. Adjacent Possibilities was born out of the Studio Y social innovation fellowship at MaRS...

Syrian Artists Persevere Through War

Jasmine Bager, New York City 

This article was originally published on Syria Deeply. In a time plagued by war and devastation, the arts have become one way for Syrians to rebuild their lives and reaffirm their identity. For centuries, Syrians have become masters of design. Their intricately cut, delicate handicrafts have been made of various...

A Playwright’s Journey to the Canadian Arctic

Chantal Bilodeau, New York City 

In 2009, after receiving a commission from Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company to write a new play about the intersection of race, class, and climate change, I embarked on a research trip to Baffin Island, in the territory of Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic.  With no prior experience, I had only...

Ebola Cartoons: Art in a Time of Crisis

Kate Thomas,  

This article was originally published on Ebola Deeply. Cassell–a Liberian illustrator and Irene–an American writer and artist– have come together to depict the shadow of the virus on a country they love. Ebola is changing everyday life in Liberia, and the duo wanted to show how. “Be careful, son,” a mother...

Artist Roundtable (A.RT): Art and Politics

Todd Lanier Lester, São Paulo 

It’s a new, interesting initiative for the visual arts to have this sort of thing happening, and I’m really excited to take part. It’s not very often that as an artist you have the potential to sit down and have a conversation with three people that are experts in their...

A Mythology of Memory — Photo Essay

Berette Macaulay, New York City 

This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in Of Note Magazine. Though I will be a stranger in my land of origin, the importance of this journey is to bridge the gaps in my identity and my parents’ painful sabotage of identity. I want to know them...

Abiola Women: Agents of Change

Yaffa Fredrick, New York City 

“Any society that is silencing its women has no future.” -Hafsat Abiola In the face of unspeakable tragedy, Hafsat Abiola determines to do the improbable, enter the professional space that cost her parents their lives: politics. While running Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an NGO that empowers women and trains...

Our Disappearing Future

Alyssa Stein, New York City 

On Sunday, September 21, artist duo Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese held a public art installation to coincide with both the People’s Climate March and the launch of the Clinton Global Initiative. The installation, titled “Dawn of the Anthropocene,” consisted of a giant ice sculpture of the words “The Future.”...

Human Trafficking: The Sinai Phenomenon

Alyssa Stein, New York City 

According to the United Nations, it is time to pay attention to the “most unreported humanitarian crisis in the world.” Bedouins in the Sinai Desert are kidnapping asylum-seekers from Eritrea, thousands of whom try desperately to cross the Egyptian-Israeli border every year. In an effort to draw attention to this...

Syrian Filmmakers Expose ISIS

Katarina Montgomery, Beirut 

A version of this article, “Arts + Culture: Documenting Syrian Lives, in Long Form” was originally published on Syria Deeply.  Yassin Haj Saleh went to prison at the age of 20, in the early 1980s, and remained there for 16 years. He is a well-known dissident and intellectual who has written...

Iran’s Underground Trade of U.S. Army Gear

Cleo Abramian, New York City 

A worn pair of desert mountain combat boots, tan, with a deeply serrated heel kicker to break and arrest a soldier’s slide. Made in the U.S., the boots are still flecked with dust from Iraqi or Afghani soil. They were purchased for $60 in Tehran by Sina, a young freelance...

Mexico: A View from Both Sides

Asmara Pelupessy, Amsterdam 

A version of this article, “Mexico | A View from Both Sides: Stories of Migration by Photographer Encarni Pindado,” was originally published on OF NOTE Magazine. Photographer Encarni Pindado has been living and working in Mexico for the past three years, covering social issues with a focus on gender and...

Analyzing the Art of Resistance

Mary Ann DeVlieg, New York City 

A theatre director is beaten and stabbed to death in front of his apartment. Another is shot to death in front of his wife and child. A filmmaker is kidnapped, his fingers cut off, and he’s left to bleed along the roadside. A radio DJ wakes to see his car...

Street Art Illuminates Egypt’s Lingering Problems

Sarah Lipkis, New York City 

Under former President Hosni Mubarak, street art in Egypt was heavily monitored. The threat of punishment, prison sentences, and fines, coupled with ubiquitous police presence, made it nearly impossible for artists to carry out their craft as forbidden by the regime. The January 2011 protests in Tahrir Square, however, gave...

Art Challenges Homophobia in Vietnam

Aliza Goldberg, New York City 

Clad only in plastic house sandals and baggy underpants, two men lean over the balcony of their Hanoi apartment to escape the heat. The two, their arms lightly touching, look relaxed and comfortable, but also vulnerable. Strings of blue lights frame the couple. A blurry pink bouquet in the bottom right...

WPJ Live: Film Screening & Salon #DayaniCristal

Michele Wucker, Chicago 

Winner of the Sundance 2013 Cinematography award and nominated in the World Documentary Competition, Who is Dayani Cristal? follows the discovery, identification, and repatriation of a migrant found dead under a cicada tree 20 minutes south of Tucson. In recognition of World Refugee Day, the World Policy Institute hosted a film screening...

Eurovision: How Politics Takes Center Stage

Sarah Lipkis, New York City 

Eurovision, an international music competition, was founded in 1956 with only seven countries (The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Switzerland) as a way of bridging divides after World War II. Today, Eurovision is one of the biggest music events in Europe—with over thirty countries participating each year and 130 million...

Artists As Ambassadors of Cultural Diplomacy

Jonathan Hollander, New York City 

In 2009, a gathering was held at what was then the White Oak Plantation, philanthropist Howard Gilman’s haven for the arts and exotic fauna. Those invited were activists in a world almost as diverse as the animals that Gilman had lovingly harbored. Practitioners, advocates, and officials who espoused the notion...

Exporting Desperation: Free Trade in Mexico

Lauryn Beer, Washington, D.C. 

This is the final installment in a series of Arts-Policy articles examining global migration through a cinematic lens. “Right now, you could say that very few people have enough to survive on,” says Don Cristobal Sanders, the father of a deceased Honduran migrant whose story is told in the new...

Where the “Terrorist” Sleeps

Alexander Hobbs,  

What does a terrorist look like? In covering the endless War on Terror, mainstream media has answered that question pretty clearly-projecting images of of blindfolded South East Asian or Middle Eastern men with beards dressed in orange jumpsuits. Surrounded by barbed wire and chains, these “enemy combatants” either tacitly or...

U.S. Border Security: A Death Sentence?

Alexander Hobbs,  

This is the third post in a four-part series of Arts-Policy articles that examined global migration through a cinematic lens. Imagine you’re a migrant, desperately trying to make your way into the United States. You’ve made it to the border after days of traveling from your home in Guatemala, Mexico,...

The Arts-Economic Nexus

Sarah Lipkis, New York City 

“It is easier for an artist to talk about [financial systems] than an economist,” according to Dutch performance artist Dette Glashouwer. Artists can more easily communicate with people in a way that they will comprehend.  Glashouwer admits that before the 2008 financial crises, she had an aversion to money, preferring...

A Dangerous Journey

Amanda Roth, New York City 

This is the second in a series of Arts-Policy articles examining global migration through a cinematic lens. Tune in in two weeks for part three. “You could say it’s a decision about death. Death is what you come up against most on the road,” says a pensive young man at...

The Right Not To Migrate

Rory Fewer,  

This is the first in a series of Arts-Policy articles examining global migration through a cinematic lens. Tune in next week for part two. Despite increased surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border, changing patterns of unauthorized crossing from Latin America into California, Arizona, and now south Texas show that migrants are...

Return to Homs: Inside Syria’s Civil War

Alexander Hobbs,  

Return to Homs, a documentary by Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki, made its U.S. debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary. I had the privilege of viewing the film at a private screening, hosted by The Open Society Foundation...

Global Violence: The Ceramic Edition

Sarah Lipkis, New York City 

Daphne Corregan, an American artist, crafted the ceramic sculpture, Painted Face, a piece that challenges and terrifies its audience. Touched by the atrocities of wars she witnessed while traveling through Africa and the former Yugoslavia, Corregan uses ceramics as a way of confronting violence. The sculpture is smooth and defined with brutal...

Into Sunlight: Dance, Reconciliation, and Peace

Gloria Hage, New York City 

The devastation of war reaches beyond political boundaries, inflicting trauma on the individual, society, and the environment. How do we create a lasting peace where there is a legacy of war? How do we embrace our shared humanity and find the common ground necessary to rebuild what hatred and war...

Brazil’s Legacy of Art and Protest Continues

Sandi Halimuddin,  
Sarah Lipkis, New York City 

A person dressed in a baggy, black hooded sweatshirt waves the Brazilian flag— mounted on a long, broken tree branch— in the air. The person is unidentifiable, with a white mask covering half his or her face. It’s nighttime, but the figure is outlined by the crackling light of fire,...

Women of the Colombian Drug Wars

Zoraida Lopez, New York City 

This is a repost of an article that first appeared in the March 2013 issue of Of Note Magazine. Between 1998 and 2008, approximately one million acres of Colombian land was used for the cultivation of coca leaves, the main ingredient used to produce cocaine. The high production of Colombian cocaine has...

From the Shadows into the Light: FeFa in Cuba

Louisa McCall, Cambridge 

Cuban-American artist Magdalena Campos-Pons’ experience of displacement and dislocation from her family and homeland feeds her restlessness and inspires the creation of her alter ego—FeFa. FeFa is a representative of Cuban cultural complexity and is currently part of the Artists’ Prospectus for the Nation. Beginning in 1976, Campos-Pons made frequent...

Fighting China’s Water Woes

Henry Yuan,  

Environmental problems such as climate change, ozone depletion, water pollution, and resource degradation are compounded by the expanding world population and increasing social mobility. These issues are often at the heart of many political and social challenges states face. Thus, environmental stewardship is a cornerstone of social welfare. Water is an...

Main Street Meltdown 

Marshall Reese,  

As the 2008 election shifted into the final weeks of the campaign, we realized the political focus was shifting toward the economy. Having already melted down Democracy at the conventions a month earlier, we decided to stage a meltdown of the Economy near Wall Street. Those of you who’ve been...

The Disappearing Middle Class

Marshall Reese,  

In 2012, we unveiled ice sculptures of the words “Middle Class” in public parks in Tampa, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina. We placed them near the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to draw attention to the economic crisis that has faced working and middle class Americans for over 30 years. We...

Beyond Cultural Diplomacy

Honor Bailey, New York City 

“How many of you are policymakers?” asked Aimee Fullman, founder of Meaningful Engagement International, to the gathered crowd. “Artists? Diplomats?” she questioned, surveying the raised hands. The vibrant mixture of attendees reflected the cross-disciplinary nature of the panel discussion, “Beyond Cultural Diplomacy: Arts, Policy, Change,” an event sponsored by the...

Democracy on Ice

Marshall Reese,  

On the third anniversary of the Iraq War in 2006, a cool spring day, we set up an ice sculpture weighing almost 2 tons of the word Democracy to disintegrate and melt away in the garden of Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York City. The sculpture and the process...

Democratic Meltdown

Marshall Reese,  

Marshall Reese and Nora Ligorano collaborate as the artistic duo LigoranoReese. In the coming three weeks, the Arts-Policy Blog will be featuring three of the artists’ works: The State of Things, Main Street Meltdown, and Morning in America.  In this immaterial age, the medium of ice seems like the perfect material for sculpting...

Human Rights, Development, and Democracy in Africa: What Role for the Arts?

Mike Van Graan, Cape Town 

This is a repost of an article that first appeared on African Futures  In the past 10 to 15 years, a number of African countries have seen sustained and high economic growth, yet this has not lifted the continent’s inhabitants out of poverty. While poverty has been massively reduced in...

The Theater of Democracy

Aaron Landsman, New York City  

When people say, “theater is a collaborative art form,” they usually mean that what happens onstage is created collaboratively, among artists. With my current project City Council Meeting, co-created with director Mallory Catlett and designer Jim Findlay in three cities this past year, I want to talk about the collaboration...

Earthworks: Harvesting An Understated Directive From Environmental Art

Shirlynn Sham, New York City 

Casual appreciators of art may conventionally expect it to be confined to museums, existing apart from the realm of grassroots activist work. Yet there is a possible intersection between art and policymaking: The “Earthworks” movement of the late 20th century. Inaugurated in the 1960s in part as a revolt against...

My Private China: An Interview with Alex Kuo

Farisa Khalid, New York City 

Alex Kuo’s newest book, My Private China, is a penetrating glimpse into a cross-section of life in China today. From Lang Lang’s formidable piano teacher Madame Zhou Guangren to zealous evangelical missionaries, Kuo gives us a dazzling, at times, unsparing, kaleidoscopic view of Chinese trying to keep with the speed...

One Girl’s Fight to Learn in Ethiopia: An Interview with Writer Maaza Mengiste

Mikael Awake, New York City 

[A version of this article was originally published by Of Note Magazine] Maaza Mengiste, now based in the United States, was born in Ethiopia and spent much of her life in Nigeria and Kenya. Her moving debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, tells the story of everyday Ethiopians surviving the...

Learning to Cherish Hard-Won Rights

Arlene Goldbard, San Rafael 

When we have rights, it’s easy to take them for granted. It’s when they are contested that they matter most; and when we forget the struggle to gain them, it has to be relearned. Today, I write about two very different examples: the U.S. Supreme Court took a step backward...

The Gezi Park Experience

Pelin Tan, Istanbul 

GEZI PARK—Before the Turkish government brutally invaded Taksim Square and Gezi Park with water cannons and tear gas last Saturday, protesters held forums to discuss sustainable action that would continue the resistance beyond the park’s occupation. The Gezi Park experience is about collaboration, solidarity despite differences, voluntary shared labor, an...

Forced to Flee: Rebuilding Lives and Communities Through Art

Farisa Khalid, New York City 

By Farisa Khalid In the early 1990s, the Cameroonian reporter and cartoonist Issa Nyaphaga lampooned local and international politics in his paper, Le Messager Popoli, a popular satirical journal. During the presidential elections of the early 90s, the goverment subjected Le Messager Popoli to rigorous state censorship, and in 1994,...

How Arts and Culture can Advance a Neighborhood Agenda

Caron Atlas, New York City 

For the first time since 2001, and only the second time since 1977, the mayor of New York City is an open seat without an incumbent running for re-election. What’s more, the entire city council is also up for election with nearly half of its seats open. This precise political...

Beyond Dollars and Cents: Defining Policy in Culture

Nichole Martini, New York City 
Alexis Ortiz, New York City 

Americans interested in cultural policy often lament the fact that the United States does not have an official national cultural policy.  Without a Ministry of Culture or other similar agency, there is minimal central direction for funding and policy decisions.  Because of this, policy and funding are often conflated in...

Creative Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belonging

Robert Bedoya, Tucson 

The following is a re-casted version of my essay “Creative Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belonging,” first published on the Arts in a Changing America website. To that end, I’ve expanded the coda section of the original article. Ella Fitzgerald’s “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is one of my...

Survival Strategies for Artists in a Modern World

Lawrence E. McCullough,  

The controversial 2011 elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission by Governor Sam Brownback dramatically highlighted the relentless shrinkage of public arts funding in the United States, even as the arts enjoy a stratospheric profile in mainstream media and American popular culture. It’s a curious contradiction.  Growing numbers of American government...

Creative Engagement and a Moral Economy in Appalachia

Caron Atlas, New York City 

In a time of mountaintop removal, climate change, and manufactured austerity, Helen Lewis’ Rebuilding Communities: A Twelve Step Recovery Program offers a forward looking plan for revitalizing Appalachia that may be adapted to other regions of the world as well. Based on her years of experience working in rural Appalachian...

“Go Home Yankee Hipster”: How to Make Friends and Improve Public Art

Martin Rosengaard, Copenhagen 

In summer 2011, American artist Shepard Fairey, famous for his Barack Obama “HOPE” poster, traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, to work on a series of urban murals. One of his chosen canvasses, however, was particularly controversial. The wall was the only remaining part of the iconic underground leftist venue, “Youth House.” The surrounding...

Toward a Common Archive: Reframing the Roots of Palestine and Israel

Linda Kinstler,  

“Don’t ask me what went on there. I don’t talk about it. It’s my secret. This I don’t tell.” Binyamin Eshet shifts uneasily in his chair, averting his eyes from the camera. His interviewer has just asked him to recall the events of the Dahmash Mosque massacre in the Palestinian village...

Masked Faces, Censored Hopes: An Interview with Artist Shurooq Amin

Shaun Randol,  

Shurooq Amin is a Kuwaiti/Syrian artist, poet, and professor at Kuwait University. In two recent art exhibitions, “It’s a Man’s World” and “Society Girls,” Amin has explored themes of gender, identity, duality, religion, and hypocrisy in Middle Eastern and Arab societies.  Her colorful mixed-media tableaux depict Kuwaitis in trendy clothes...

An Artist Paints His Country’s Toil

Kristin Deasy, Berlin 

Once upon a time in a city called Baghdad, a little boy named Ayad drew an airplane. This was well before similar aircraft hit New York’s World Trade Center and engulfed his nation in war. Baghdad in 1978 was a wealthy city, coasting on high oil revenues, littered with bright...

Dissident Artists Matter, Regardless of Their Fame

Sidd Joag, New York City 

Often when I explain what we do at freeDimensional, I am met with some version of, “So like that Chinese artist, what was his name…yes, Ai Weiwei. So like him, you work with artists like him?” To which I often want to respond, “NO! Not Ai Weiwei, every other artist...

Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan: Excerpts From a Graphic Novel

Niki Singleton, New York City 

This page from the 126 page graphic novel, Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan, teases the survival stories of four Sudanese boy refugees from the second civil war in Sudan who are now living in Dallas, Texas. The four boys ran from their different villages in Southern Sudan when...

The Dry Wind Came: Breaking the Cycle of Violence in South Africa

Nick Boraine,  

“This time of healing has been a pretty picture that we have drawn across the land, and every day the dry wind comes from the north to wipe it out. But we’ve made this image of what we can be and that is what we have to celebrate; and we...

Did You Kiss the Dead Body? Visualizing Absence in the Archive of War

Rajkamal Kahlon,  

On September 11, 2012, I began serving as the Artist-In-Residence at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, or NSP, in New York. The NSP has legally challenged abuses of power by the Bush and Obama administrations’, such as uses of torture, unlawful detention, targeted killings with drones, CIA...

For the Sake of Others

Shaun Randol,  

In The Mantle’s 2012 virtual roundtable, “For the Sake of Others,” four artists and allies answer:  “What is the role of the artist in a conflict zone?” The backgrounds and perspectives of the roundtable participants match the complexity of the question. That is, any answer requires establishing a context, parsing details,...

Mapping Migration: Putting Journeys in Context

Barrak Alzaid,  

Working primarily with video and images, artist Bouchra Khalili creates installation pieces that show narratives of migration. In the videos, individuals narrate the story of their migration while tracing its path on maps. A series of silkscreen prints presents these same journeys in the stark simplicity of constellation-like traces on...

Reclaiming Unused Urban Space

Paula Segal, New York City 

596 Acres, a group devoted to mapping and re-claiming unused public land, decamped for the Rockaways from August 20-September 6, 2012, in partnership with Rockaway Resource Recovery. The Rockaways have the highest concentration of vacant public land in Queens, and 596 Acres worked to identify and reclaim that land for...

A Drop of Life: A Filmmaker’s Journey Inside the World Water Crisis

Shalini Kantayya, Brooklyn 

My passion for water rights did not begin with an intellectual study but rather—as all great adventures do—with the heart. The journey to make my film A Drop Of Life began in January 2001. I was in India on a Fulbright Fellowship, making a documentary on political street theater. On...

Popular Dissent

Alice Wang,  

The line for the public reading of Pussy Riot’s closing statements in New York stretched around the block of the Ace Hotel on the night before the women’s sentencing. Even after the doors were locked, the crowd waited on the off chance of catching the tail end of the event,...