After the presidential election, I was stunned and kept asking: What can we do? Alison Hawthorne Deming sat down with me last May to come up with one solution: an environmental week at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In her November 17, 2016 “Letter to America”, Deming wrote, “Think of the great spirit of inventiveness the Earth calls forth after each major disturbance it suffers. Be artful, inventive, and just, my friends, but do not be silent.”
I kept hearing her words: do not be silent.
At the same time, the attacks on individuals and the environment—on basic rights—seemed to come from all sides. Could we address multiple issues? What could happen if we created a week dedicated to social activism and the arts? If we brought together writers and artists whose work focuses on the environment, climate change, gun violence, racial violence, police brutality, violence against women, homophobia, and immigration, all through the lens of creative action? If as many voices as possible were heard?
The result is the Fine Arts Work Center’s Writers & Artists as Activists Week taking place July 22-27, 2018. The week in Provincetown opens with a keynote address by Masha Gessen and the public opening of an exhibition by Ai Weiwei, Rebar and Case, curated by Christophe Mao. The Work Center is honored to host this important exhibition, comprised of sculptural and paper-based elements that illuminate the artist’s lifelong, acclaimed insistence on speaking challenging truths to institutional powers. In partnership with the Provincetown Film Festival and Water’s Edge Cinema, the Work Center will present a screening of Human Flow, Ai’s 2017 documentary about the global refugee crisis, followed by a Q&A with the artist.
On July 21, Ai will be honored at the Fine Arts Work Center’s Summer Awards Celebration, the organization’s largest fundraiser, and an annual commemoration of individuals whose exceptional gifts for writing, art, and action have moved us toward a more progressive and humane society.
Workshops this week include:
Martha Collins, Beyond the Lyrical ‘I’: Using Documentary Research in Poems Exploring Political & Social Issues
Alison Hawthorne Deming, Writing an Essay, Planting a Tree: An Environmental Workshop
Lacy M. Johnson, Writing for Social Change: A Creative Nonfiction Workshop
Michael Patrick MacDonald, Transformative Memoir Writing
Aja Monet, Voices: Poetry for the People
Sarah Schulman, Witness, Express, & Represent: A Prose Workshop
Marcus Wicker, The Politics of Play
Lauren Ewing, Sea Level Rise: An Installation Workshop on Climate Change
Daniel Heyman, The Art of Resistance: Get on Board! Making Activist Posters Using Woodblock Printing
Free, public events for Writers & Artists as Activists Week include nightly faculty readings and artist talks, student readings, and open studios. Related social justice events will also be presented at East End Books in Provincetown.
Kelle Groom is the Director of the Summer Workshops & Collaborative Residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is the author of a memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl(Simon & Schuster), a Barnes & Noble Discover pick and The New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice selection. Her four poetry collections are Spill, Five Kingdoms, Luckily (Anhinga Press), and Underwater City (University Press of Florida). Her work has appeared in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry, among others. A 2014 NEA Fellow in Prose, Groom is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College.
Header photo of Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown by Naya Bricher.