Pondering Political Art in Our Neighborhoods

Where does Highland Park and Mount Washington stand on the issue of political art?

Avenue 50 Studio's Embracing Democracy exhibition, which featured politically inspired pieces from seven artists, after a nearly month-long run.

Gallery Director Kathy Gallegos said she was motivated to present the show after watching live news coverage of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and several of her aids and constituents during a meet your congresswoman event in her district.

Gallegos told me she feared the shooting of Giffords at a community event would have a chilling effect on public political discourse, and that Embracing Democracy was her effort to to provide a safe place for polticial conversatons.

In fact, when asked what she hoped people would get out of Embracing Democracy, she said: "I hope it sparks a lot of conversations."

Gallegos disappointedly revealed to me that the opening night of Embracing Democracy had drawn a relatively sparce crowd. 

"This show was not very well attended, we usually have wonderful openings, and this was one of the worst," she said. "We thought we would have drawn the political community, the progressive community. Where's the progressive community?"

Political artists tend to get marginalized in the arts community, Gallegos explained. "If you're a political artist, you tend to have a political follwing," she said. "And if you're not a poltical artist, even your own people don't want to come out [to your shows] if you're going to make a statement."

Our question to you, the residents of Highland Park and Mount Washington, communities with proud , thriving gallery scenes and omnipresent , is why?

Highland Park and Mount Washington residents undoubtedly love art, but how do they feel about political art?

When passing the neighorhood's murals, such as the one across the street from or the freestanding "Library's Educate, Governments Make Cutbacks" mural behind the Arroyo Seco Library, do you ponder the political messages they contain, or do you simply appreciate their aesthetic beauty?

How do you feel? Should artists strive to make political statements through their work, or should they just shut up and make with the pretty stuff?

Ariana Manov April 04, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Personal and community apologies to Kathy Gallegos. I'm a Highland Park progressive, dare I say radical, who didn't manage to make it to this exhibit. (I'll make these things a higher priority next time.) But rest assured, we are out here! As far as the "political" vs. "pretty" art referenced in the article is concerned, I think there are lots of points at which art and politics converge without sacrificing one for the other. And, just to complicate myself, I also believe that ALL ART IS POLITICAL. So much of it just reinforces the values and standards of the status quo to such an extent that it doesn't appear to be making a statement. But it is. That is the statement. ( Insert a chorus of "Don't worry. Be happy" here.) "Political Art" is called that because it challenges the values of the status quo or positions itself outside of the proverbial "box" and the statement it makes seems more blatant somehow. And, for me, also more compelling. Warmly, Ariana Manov


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