Art shows us a way forward. We rely on artists to think creatively about the challenges we face in the present, and craft, through their art, new futures.
Sometimes those futures are a joyful dance down a New Orleans street. Sometimes they’re images of pride wheat-pasted onto abandoned buildings in the Navajo Nation. And most often, those futures are drawn from the lessons of the past, simultaneously honoring those who came before, while lighting the way for those to come.
In 2018, KQED Arts had the privilege of highlighting the work of not only local artists, but artists across the country who are shaping the future through theater, filmmaking, orchestral suites, enormous meals and dance moves.
Some artists looked back on their own lives for lessons from the past. Pamela Chavez translated memories of her childhood journey from Costa Rica to the United States into an animated short film full of magic and wonder, replacing the contemporary rhetoric around border politics with a timeless story of migration.
Some artists reached back all the way to 1966, to the first known instance of militant queer resistance in United States history. While staging the play Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in a Tenderloin diner, young trans actors and activists gathered strength from the courageous queens who came before them.
And some artists simply keep the decidedly un-simple art forms of their neighborhoods and their cultures alive, whether it’s Kev Choice's restorative symphony for Oakland, the popping and strutting of San Jose’s very own Playboyz Inc., or the flavors of food from diasporic communities filling the streets of West Oakland.
At the front lines of demonstrations, carving out spaces for movement in the midst of rapidly gentrifying landscapes, artists are the ones forging a path into a future—a future free from racism, sexism, transphobia, income disparity and homelessness. A future we can join in.
--Text by Sarah Hotchkiss