Last Tuesday night, I spent the evening at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland part of the Community Advocacy Alliance group. Walking over to the gallery, there was a gathering of activists on the steps of Oakland City Hall protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. It’s never a dull moment in Oakland without the political activity, freedom of speech, and diverse opinions.
This was the group’s second meeting at the nonprofit exhibition space. According to Pro Arts Gallery the objective is to: “establish scalable training program organizing for change that benefits real people in their lives; encourage learn to navigate across political systems; focus on the allocation of public resources that reflect community in and trough the arts; Develop arts advocates committed to fair and equitable public processes.” Sounds like a noble cause to me.
The speaker for the event was 3rd generation Oakland native Harold Lowe. He’s a financial planner, advocate, former Oakland Planning Commissioner, community leader, and more. The goal of the seminar was to promote the arts in the political community, understand the function of government, defining budgets, building allies, and other good stuff. The two-hour seminar only skimmed the surface.
During the talk, Mr. Lowe stressed the importance of following the money trail in government. The group was showed an Oakland City budget that was multiple inches thick with numbers, charts, and overwhelming information. Bottom line: look at the top expenditures in government to understand its priorities.
What are the government’s top priorities? Does education rank in superiority to military? How can art receive the attention and merit it deserves? Honestly, our priorities in government seemed to be so far removed from citizens, disenfranchisement seems to be the prevailing option. However, not engaging should not be an alternative in our democracy.
My priorities are to be part of a community that fosters artistic expression, creates solutions that engage instead of disrupt, and invests in education. My first artist studio was in the Tenderloin in San Francisco and I shared two studios in West Oakland. Both areas are infected with poverty and crime. In fact, the school near my West Oakland studio looked old, tired, in need of repairs, and straight out of a war zone. Is it illogical to invest more in education and less on destruction?
Lowe: “Artists must work to get supporters in key decision making roles.” The goal is to effectively communicate how art can positively impact a society by building healthy and productive citizens. Bitching and complaining won’t cut it anymore. A future with hope, promise, and action are in order.