During my time with the multidisciplinary publishing platform of Mn Artists, my focus was to find voices that would bring a fresh lens to a current art event. I chose to engage writers and artists who are willing to take creative risks and bring honesty and generosity to their ideas about the wide range of arts being created and presented in Minnesota. As I considered the role of Mn Artists in the local community, I tried to define the local—and quickly realized that the boundary of the local cannot simply be defined by proximity. In today’s connected world, the local subjects relevant to Minnesota artists are national and global topics.
It is vital that the artwork being created now is written about and engaged with critically. I often fall back on the words of the influential performer and musician, Nina Simone, as she was asked about the responsibility of an artist:
“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.”
These passionate words ring true today, just as they did during the Civil Rights movement of the late ’60s and ’70s. What is happening right now? Who is shaping our structures? Which voices need to be amplified? What needs further reflection, so that we can influence change towards a better, more equal community?
The essays published during my guest editorial position speak to what was happening in the art community from October of 2017 through January of 2018: uncovering a future when trauma has seemingly collapsed the past and present, calling for a reworking of spaces and the practice of gendering of tools, searching for expansive tenderness and more attention toward an interior blackness existing outside the paradigm of the public and political, and using poetry to engage the slippage between language and what is seen or felt.