The world changes so fast. For me to make sense of it all, I not only look to art but I also look to diverse perspectives on global events – from financial theories to positions on economic parity, environmental change, social justice, racial justice, and more. I’ve recently spent some time traveling in order to open new doors and explore new innovations. Some of my most memorable experiences have included participating in the TED conference and the Creative Change retreat organized by Opportunity Agenda. I find it useful to listen to diverse perspectives on the issues we face. Who isn’t awed by the creativity and bravery of people working to improve our planet?!
Perhaps the most recent moment of inspiration occurred just last month, when I attended the seventh Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which was held from September 20-22 in New York City. The mission of CGI, which was established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton is, in their words, “to inspire, connect, and empower a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.” CGI works to foster partnerships, provide strategic advice, and drive resources toward effective ideas for the alleviation of poverty, the creation of a cleaner environment, and increased access to health care and education. While there were truly extraordinary speakers present – from world leaders to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Burma’s inspiring Aung San Suu Kyi – it was the audience’s enthusiasm to participate in change movements that I found most exhilarating.
The brilliance of President Clinton’s efforts is his work breaking down traditional silos between governments, corporations, NGOs and philanthropic organizations in order to work towards solving real global crises. Instead of simply talking about issues, the CGI community is actually helping to solve them, and in the process they are saving countless lives. I wonder how the arts might learn from the CGI model. What might happen if we take big steps to break down our own silos and collaborate with others toward shared goals from social justice to arts education? The future holds some enormous challenges for the cultural sector – from shifts in population demographics to the challenges of generations of citizens being schooled without arts education to the erosion of public funding for the arts, to name just a few very basic and obvious examples. More importantly, what might happen when art participates meaningfully in the efforts of social justice and human rights sectors? One thing is certain: we would learn, engage, and bolster these efforts. We might even make significant headway towards building future audiences for artistic and cultural initiatives, in a time when public financing for the arts is in decline all around the world and our nation’s children are growing up without arts education.