Arts, Insight, and Community Building
During the year 2020 the Gloucester Cultural Initiative began producing a series of Forums with local artists discussing how the arts can awaken, inform, and inspire our community to address existential societal concerns. These programs were originally envisioned for live audiences but have been carried out as webinars during times of limited public gatherings.
Artists have always been at the forefront of seeing the beauty, but also the underlying tensions and struggles, in nature and humanity. Once again the planet is facing profound threats and instability, this time from climate change and pollution, an economy that has generated vast inequalities, and with democratic institutions under siege. In coming years, Gloucester will be a frontline community for these great challenges. What role can the arts, including public art, play in informing and inspiring action, reaching hearts and minds, and building a shared commitment to enacting difficult change?
Arts and Climate Change
With our co-sponsor the Sawyer Free Library, GCI presented “Arts and Climate Change” on May 1 as the first in the series of forums. Meri Jenkins, who developed and supervised the Creative Economy Initiatives for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, served as the moderator. Her knowledge base extends beyond Massachusetts to national and global trends of community cultural development and planning. The two featured speakers were artists Susan Quateman and Leslie Bartlett, who have
combined silk painting with photography in their working collaborations with environmental entities, that are focused on the climate crisis facing coastal New England. Approximately 80 people attended this online event and engaged in robust audience participation. The recording of the program has been distilled into a YouTube video by Lisa Smith of Cable TV 1623 Studios. Cape Ann Climate Coalition served as an important resource in the production.
Arts, Housing and Community
The second in our series is planned for early spring of 2021.
Gloucester’s housing stock is increasingly unaffordable to residents, and our architectural landscapes, waterfronts, open spaces, and ocean vistas are being altered by real estate development. What stories do these changes have to tell us, as individuals and as members of a historic community?
How are artists helping us to understand the deeper meaning of these changes in our housing and landscapes? If many of us experience a measure of grief and pain, what are these emotions telling us? And if some of us create conflict and resistance to this new development, what is it we are trying to defend? Can the arts bring to us a better understanding of this moment in our community and will that insight into our human experience of these changes help us find ways to move forward as a community that we love?
Arts and Diversity
A third Forum will explore the need for a more beneficial and direct relationship among diversity, artistic expression, and social enrichment and that will examine, in part, how our artists can call attention to racism and ways to overcome it.