No matter which side of the election you were on, it’s been a stressful, contentious year. Most of us have been on both the receiving and doling ends of hurtful comments. Now, for many Americans, the future seems as uncertain as it did on Monday, the day before the election.
Tuesday evening, November 8th, was a sleepless night for me. The unexpected happened, and as I sat awake, in shock, in the wee hours of the morning, I did what millennials do when sleep is elusive: I scrolled through Facebook. Most of what I saw was disheartening. So many dear friends were anxious, saddened and fearful.
In the midst of all the despair, a post by a woman named Lotty Vigue on the NYU Tisch page gave me much needed encouragement. It read, “We have the responsibility to respond with art. Don’t forget that.”
When I first read this post, I read it as if it had been written by Enjolras from Les Miserables. Art has the ability to reach people in ways that politics can’t. The artist has both the privilege and burden of inspiring change and growth. At the moment I saw that post, I interpreted the author’s intention as a call to action. We must take a stand to hold onto the social progress we’ve made in the last decade.
We must, and we will. However, I realized that our sociopolitical stand cannot be our only priority. Many people on both sides are still enraged and/or devastated in the wake of the election. Unchecked rage leads to rash action and more pain and destruction. Anger can be a powerful tool when it’s channeled into action, but we need to be in the proper headspace in order to avoid sending the whole forest up in flames while we’re blazing our trail.
We are capable of helping people get to that productive mindset. In addition to inspiring us to action, art has the capacity to soothe and heal. Art allows us to look outside ourselves and take the perspective of another. It allows us to see pain and hardship laid out, and to help us process them. Art also pinpoints and magnifies the beautiful elements of our world, inspiring hope. We need art, and we need it desperately.
If we are to work together, we need to make sure that we’re able to focus our energy and channel it into productivity. So, in the midst of your appeal for equality and peace, make time to create art that will provide solace. Make time to create art that lifts the downtrodden. Make time to create art that rejuvenates. May we all work to empower each other as we carry on advocating for justice.