Congratulations! If you’re reading this, that means you’re a member of the choir.

We are the choir

1-11-17 Melvin Graham

1-11-17 Melvin Graham tries to get Dylann Roof to look at him.

But are we just going to stand there and sing pretty? We are not sheep! What are we willing to DO to bring about real change in the world we are sharing?

Sure, art makes us think and feel. We watch a movie, we take in an exhibit, we go to a play, read a book, listen to music and if it resonates, we get inspired by the beautiful dance and our mind soars. And then we return to our lives. Some of us take the next step. We respond creatively. We paint, compose, record, write. But have we been transformed? Have we transformed others? The thing we can all agree on about art is that great art has a unique power to affect and transform people in a profound way, far more fundamentally than mere entertainment. I’ve written extensively about the difference.

But how do we harness that power of art to change the world?

I’m not the first person to ask this important question and I won’t be the last. In fact, it’s almost just too overwhelming to consider in such broad terms. Most of us would rather just order a pizza and flip through every movie on Amazon or binge watch a few seasons of Portlandia. Newsflash: that doesn’t count as activism. So let me break the question down for you, fellow choir members:

“How do we use our art to actively turn up the volume on nuance, empathy, love, consensus, compassion, common sense and turn down the volume on fear, hate, intolerance and closed mindedness?”



How do we use the power of art to convey the emotion behind the resistance movement or bring awareness to other important issues you believe are effecting all of us?  First, before you pick up a brush, or put on your dancing shoes, ask yourself, “What am I passionate about changing?” Then ask, “What would that passion look like if I expressed it through my artform?”

But Okay Rob, that’s just me. I’m just one person and nobody cares about my vision. Sadly, that is true. At the end of the day, we all get one vote. But some people have more influence than others, unions, corporations, politicians, celebrities come to mind. But what about artists, right here in our community? Our medium is emotion and thought, the two most powerful tools to influence others.  All we need is a platform. That’s why we must find a way to work together whenever a platform becomes available. If I have proven anything in my long career, it’s that being a one man band, shut away in my studio, is definitely NOT going to end world hunger, make water a right, stop racism, abolish CSA, etc. It takes a village.

So, okay, we all agree that we’ve been moved, touched and inspired by great art. We have those, “I wish I’d thought of that” moments. But where do we go from there? We must connect with each other. Find ways to share our vision with like-minded groups and individuals. And then, once in a while, an image, an idea, a movement, brought into the world by an artist, emerges from the abyss, and people are changed.

So the question then becomes:

“How do we get together and form that critical mass required to change the world?”

Trouble ensues right from the start because artists tend to be very strong willed individuals; we are not very good at being sheep. All I can say to that is this:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Sometimes we are the star and sometimes we are the stage hand. But if we don’t all take turns and play nice with one another, nothing is going to change. That’s just the hard truth. Together, all things are possible.

How can OUR art provide that emotional hook? How do WE cut through all the noise? How can the totality of OUR art provide that emotional hook? How can a community of artists and art supporters make a difference in political, social and spiritual discourse? How can art move the needle? How can art/artists improve/educate society? How can we convert the collector’s passion for art into cash assistance that actually helps people? These are just some of the questions we will discuss this Tuesday, where a small group of influencers will get together to exchange ideas, form collaborations and come up with real solutions. Here, you will be heard. In addition to the above questions, we will actively address the issues expressed below:

You are invited to A Community Conversation at Fabulon Gallery, 1017 Wappo Rd, Charleston, SC 29418

Tuesday, August 8, 5-8 (discussion starts at 6 pm)

Artist Robert Maniscalco will be facilitating, inspired by his courtroom sketches of the Dylann Roof Trial, a forum for justice for the Emanuel 9 survivors and family, to whom the exhibition of paintings is dedicated. This work is on display as part of the show “The Quench Project and the mire of desire” on exhibit until August 10.

Roof 1-10-17 Roof Delivers His Closing Statement for Sentencing

Roof 1-10-17 Roof Delivers His Closing Statement Before Sentencing

Darren Lee Calhoun of the Avery Center will be one of the participating speakers. Leaders from Indivisible Charleston, Black Lives Matter and many other groups will be represented. We are inviting other community leaders and interested citizens of Charleston to gather for a conversation about forgiveness and the underlying issues of race and injustice still plaguing a society flirting dangerously with the alt right vision Dylann Roof had in mind. What can we do together and individually to change that trajectory? Does forgiveness mean the underlying issues about justice and inequality no longer exist? How does Charleston retain the image of being a place where forgiveness is a primary force for change, while not burying its collective head in the sand? How can we peacefully bring about justice for all? What role can artists play at this juncture in history? Robert and other participants will attempt to identify and unravel these issues; together we will come up with ideas for future activism.

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