Interviews

Introducing #OccupyWallStreet’s Arts and Culture Committee

by Liza Eliano on September 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street members unveil a flag created for the movement by artist Jon McCarthy

On the 14th day of Occupy Wall Street, the movement has seen its biggest turn out yet. Buzz about a possible visit from the band Radiohead (which after a lot of confusion, never came to fruition), might have had something to do with it, but regardless of this hype the occupation still seems to be gaining steam. At one point thousands of people converged at Liberty Park and media cameras swarmed the scene, making it impossible for anyone to move out of the square.

Protesters fold paper cranes next to a sign that reads "Make Art Not War"

After the crowd dispersed I was able to walk around and noticed that in the midst of protesters conversing, eating, sleeping and going about their daily business, art and creativity was also thriving in the park. Young kids joined in making cardboard posters to add to the street collage, while an older set of protesters folded paper cranes as a gesture of peace. Painting students from the School of Visual Arts also showed up to share their grievances over increased tuition and the gutting of art education programs.

I briefly caught up with Alexandre Carvalho, one of the main organizers of the Arts and Culture Committee at Occupy Wall Street, to find out more about how the protesters are utilizing artistic practices to express their political and personal viewpoints.

He shared with me the importance of art for the movement and the ways that artists can continue to contribute.

Students from the School of Visual Arts bring their grievances to Occupy Wall Street

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Liza Eliano: What is the role of the Arts and Culture Committee in the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Alexandre Carvalho: Our role is to be enablers, to enable all of the creative potential of the people who have come out and to let their voices be heard.

LE: What sort of art or cultural events have you planned or have taken place so far during the occupation?

AC: Tonight at 9pm we are having a spoken word performance in front of the library. Someone else is also building a bull shaped pinata, and on Monday we are having a corporate zombie flash mob, so come dressed as a zombie with blood dripping from your mouth.

Samuel, age 7, being interviewed about the poster he made for the movement

LE: Have more artists been joining the movement?

AC: We could have more. This is a call for all artists to come out. Before social practices change we need to change the underlying culture and art is such a powerful tool for that.

LE: How can artists contribute and get involved in the movement?

AC: There are two main ways that artists can contribute. The first is through virtual territory. They can send us links to their artworks, music, paintings to our Twitter feed #occupywithart.

We also have a feed that goes the other way, #occupiedwithart, that focuses on the art being created here at the protest. [Editors note: It appears that both feeds are still underway, but the group has been organizing to get them started].

Artists can also send us their ideas to arts_culture@nycga.net and we’ll put up your poetry reading or performance. Just tell us what is it, when, where and any needs that you have and we’ll try to make it happen.

LE: If you had to define this movement by one image or symbol what would it be, or is it even possible to define?

AC: The movement can’t be defined by one thing. You see all voices here in this square, the dissonant voices that are usually not heard by the establishment are converging on this square. You have unions, people fighting against police brutality, women’s organizations. It’s like art. Art is about opening doors, not closing them, and right now we need to be open.

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Occupy Wall Street has a website, occupywallst.org.

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