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Art as Activism

The Bus was stoked to be able to provide a small economic boost to five amazing young, local artists. Thank you to everyone who participated by sharing their art, promoting the contest, and voting on the submissions! Read on and get to know the artists behind two of our arts contest submissions and learn their stories. 

Fifth House Media: Kamyar Mohsenin (he/him) Hanan Hassan (she/her) Toni Banx (she/her) Elevate music video

Performed by: Hanan Hassan (@onedesertflower), Toni Banx (@toni.banx); Written by: Hanan Hassan, Toni Banx; Filmed by: Kamyar Mohsenin (@kamyar.m); Produced by: Noah O’Connor (@noah_coinflip); Engineered by: Noah O’Connor, Arthur Anderson (@mead.st

About the piece: “This song is written as a reminder to the listener of their agency in unfavorable social circumstances and their power to ‘elevate.'” 

How COVID is impacting the artists: Hanan is a teaching artist who worked in community outreach, and that is totally eliminated, which is creating financial strain. She’s hopeful that she’ll get to return to that work. Toni lost her job completely, but she feels lucky that there are resources to help during COVID. Being a creative person, she’s taking it all positively and is grateful for the space to dive into her creativity. Kamyar’s workload has diminished– he went from teaching four in-person film-making classes to teaching two online classes and is definitely feeling the financial strain. He’s also working with Coyote Central, Lens Culture, and as a freelance video editor. He’s always excited about and working toward more projects with local, like-minded artists.

On adjusting and upliftment: Toni has more time to do what she loves to the fullest extent. “The way that I create has always been to give a voice to people that are underrepresented, especially black women. I feel like it’s important that we are heard and understood. Hip hop is a great medium for that.” In Toni’s words, the pandemic is highlighting where the screws are loose in our society. 

Kamyar has been making more of the space that he lives in; re-sorting the feng shui of it since he’s in it all the time and needs to be inspired and productive in it and by it. He’s trying no to take for granted the fact that the pandemic has issued a reclaiming of time and is using it as an opportunity to better himself in the long run.

Hanan’s message hasn’t changed because her art is always about underrepresented communities who are repeatedly affected by the same detriments. A lot of the poetry, scripts, and music that she writes discuss upliftment and reality while being able to point out what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and how we can fix it. 

Art as Activism: Toni: “Hip hop is the voice of the people. It’s the voice of where I’m from.” Toni feels that the genre has been misconstrued. It highlights social injustices and inadequacies, and instead of crying about it, it offers solutions. “My number one thing that I always want to give people is ideas, suggestions, ways to move forward. That is what hip hop is created for.”

Hanan: “Art is a vehicle for activism. With everything that we do, it feels like there’s no option to be apolitical. Being an underrepresented person in a community, you have to speak up for yourself and choose the medium to do that.” Hanah also described art as a capsule for storytelling. “In order to be an activist, you have to know the history and the best way to impact people.” 

Kamyar is a big advocate for environmental consciousness in his classrooms. He’s been trying to use his privilege to amplify the voices that need to be heard and matter. This video is a testament to that. He’s learning how to better assist others and expose communities in a way that’s honest and authentic. 

All these artists are inspired by the richness of people’s lives and stories. 

Most importantly, how to support them: “We can’t pay bills with comments and likes.” Cashapp: $fifthhouseband 

These amazing artists told me right off the bat that “during the pandemic, it’s very important to help one another,” so they donated the $300 from the Bus to Baby Z (the adorable baby in the music video) and their mom. 

Follow and purchase: @themelojuice (Hanan’s brain child/recipe supported by Kamyar and Toni) 

“Tell Seattle to actually support their artists. Too many artists grow up here or come here but can’t make strides.” They really want to be able to stay here and see the city become a true hub for artists, instead of watching awesome artists flee to LA or New York. They know that people here have spending power and want entertainment and feel that we shouldn’t depend so heavily on the government to fund the arts. “If the artists who are working hard had opportunities to show their work, people would want to be patrons.” As a voice for all local creatives, they want to see more venues, gallery spaces, opportunities for exposure, and local (emphasis on that adjective!) artists being uplifted and showcased. 

Stay tuned for more beautiful work by Fifth House! 

 

bloobberry.bigcartel.com

Erika Mazza-Smith (she/her) Instagram: @bloobberry
bloobberry.bigcartel.com 

About the piece: “The illustration is of signs in front of the Northwest Detention Center calling for the release of folks detained. I drew sunflowers behind the fence because to me, sunflowers represent hope and I like that they always find the sun, even in difficult conditions.” 

How Erika has adjusted: Erika was heavily impacted because the coffee shop she worked at closed, so she hasn’t been able to work there in two months. She’s adapting by making masks, and she also joined a mutual aid group to help support her community by doing things like grocery shopping for those who can’t, which she highly recommends if you’re in a position to do so. She is also helping to put together a food justice online summer school with Community Alliance for Global Justice and works part-time for a youth fellowship. “I am a person who tends to make themselves busy, for better or for worse!  But I am realizing that it is important to take time to rest and to grieve and not to put too much pressure on myself to be productive or continually working, so that is a practice that I am engaging in more.”

Erika on art as activism: “I think the intersection of art and activism is super important! It’s super freeing to create art (even if you don’t consider yourself an artist) and I think creating activist art together is a great way to build community and camaraderie in movements. Art also helps spark an emotional connection to an issue in a way that data and facts cannot.”

What inspires Erika: “My biggest art inspiration right now is the cartoonist Lynda Barry. She is an incredible writer, artist and educator. She has written a couple books on creativity, personal narrative and building a consistent art practice. It has been incredibly helpful to me. Inspiration only lasts so long though, I have found that finding time to sit down to draw, to let my brain wander and not pass judgements on my ideas is super important. I also often find inspiration to create a larger work from what I doodle or from something small I observe/hear/think in my daily life.”

How to support: Erika says the best way to support artists right now is by buying their art! If you can’t afford art right now, even commenting on or sharing artists’ work online is so helpful and much appreciated.

By Libby Watson, College & Community Engagement Coordinator

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