The Paradox of Politics and Art
Art has long been engaged with the political. Particularly since the Enlightenment, art has been employed in the service of politics to proliferate pointed agendas, especially via easily-replicated mediums — prints, etchings, lithographs, and written texts, for example. It could be argued that every work of art created is informed by the political climate in which it is made and therefore is political in some, perhaps abstract, manner. What is certain about art is that it functions as a barometer of society.
It’s no secret that funding for the arts, humanities, and public media have been cut, if not eliminated entirely, across the board nationwide. These cuts, acutely damaging to educational and public enrichment programs, are the most obvious manner in which art is subverted or confined by politics.
We are in Houston, Texas — Clutch City — a sprawling metropolis built on marshland and swamp — a surprisingly resilient city that has overcome some seemingly insurmountable situations (consider the events of the past year). The unexpected is anticipated here. We are in Third Ward, a historic ward whose designated boundaries and character have drastically changed since its establishment in the 1800s. Who knew a so-called “elite neighborhood of late 19th-century Houston” would devolve and later reinvent itself as a place where community-based non-profits and churches hold a significant percentage of real estate? Who knew that self-initiated, grassroots creative and social programs could become the nucleus of a cooperative and engaged community?
Someone knew. And in this story, art has played a large part in organizing this community.
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