Well, 2017 happened. May 2018 purge itself of alternative facts and truth reign over covfefe. I found myself dreaming of a parallel universe connected by critical thinking, respect, and leadership that inspired. Despite a vacuum drunk on power, strength emerged in creative forms and actions. Free speech and expression will always win over hate.
The year started with the Women’s March in Washington DC with my father. It was the largest protest in US history with supporting events throughout the world. The March was a peaceful family gathering in an ocean of creative signs, art, and expressions. The message was clear: THE FUTURE IS FEMALE.
Returning back to the San Francisco Bay Area energized, the focus was how to implement artist advocacy strategies that benefit local communities. I received the Registration Scholarship to attend the Americans for the Arts annual convention in San Francisco. The three-day event was packed with incredible information and panel sessions. The highlight was Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson: “Everyone is broken.”
Finally, the One-Percent for Public Art on Private Projects Program passed in Richmond! For almost twenty years, dedicated individuals tirelessly labored on the ordinance’s creation to view its passage. Despite resistance from developers and a conservative law firm, citizens won. As a Richmond Arts and Culture Commissioner and Public Art Advisory Committee member, it was a promise delivered to my community.
The year ended with a cross-country journey from Madison to Dallas with my grandfather and father. The goal was to reconnect my grandfather (Tom Balisle) to his birthplace of Alikchi, Oklahoma located on Code Talkers Highway. Entering The People of the Forest exhibit at the Forest Heritage Center Museum, Tom saw himself along with family and friends on display. The past and people were no longer a fading memory.
As an artist, the theme of history and identity dominated 2017. Despite local and national attempts to erase history, truth will eventually emerge. Ignorant bliss packaged in a tweet delivers empty rhetoric. My 2018 motto is to continue positive and meaningful arts advocacy. In the spirit of Rosie the Riveter: “We Can Do It!”