How to Approach Arts Activism (and Not Make Another Pepsi Ad)

Don't let your organization look like this.

“It was hard for me to understand the framing of purchasing a ticket as a liberatory act, even if it was important to the institution to have a more diverse audience, to have different folks sitting there.”

-Ryan Blocker

Welcome back to our CFR podcast The Scene. In this episode I’m hosting a roundtable with our writers on how to properly incorporate activism, and the language of activism, into the arts. Ryan Blocker is a new editor for our site, and in his debut piece for us last week he asked the question, “Are the Arts Just Using Activism Language to Sell Tickets?” It’s a smart, provocative article that generated a lot of conversation, so I thought we could use this podcast to continue to unpack the ideas he put forward, along with looking at some broader issues about when art does and doesn’t qualify as activism. Along with Ryan, I am also joined by writer Courtney Harge and editor Shawn Lent, who are also experienced artists and activists as well.

If you’re affiliated with an arts organization, I highly recommend listening to this episode with your colleagues. The discussion we have here is exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having in all our institutions, to make sure we’re doing thoughtful, inclusive work and not going down the road of failed, tone-deaf activist statements like that infamous Pepsi commercial.

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