Reflections on the 2018 Kennedy Center Arts Summit

Center for Artistry and Scholarship Executive Director Linda Nathan wrote about her recent participation in the 2018 Kennedy Center Arts Summit on lindanathan.comChris Schroeder, Director of Community Engagement at Conservatory Lab Charter School (CLCS) and CLCS resident artist Hannah O'Connor joined Linda, along with CLCS student musicians who performed at the Summit.We're sharing an excerpt of Linda's reflections here.

Last month, I had the honor and privilege of participating in the Kennedy Center Arts Summit. The goal of the day was to “activate citizen artists, explore John F. Kennedy’s ideas and to shape our collective future.” The central focus was to envision the “future state of America, specifically focusing on how the arts can be utilized to address inequities and eradicate barriers within the landscapes of education, health and resources.” A small task! Participants included a mix of citizen artists (individuals selected by the Kennedy Center to receive support for their innovative ideas), teachers (arts and academic), policy makers, funders, and others from the field of education, finite resources, and health. The mixture of attendees was one of the strengths of the day, as was the way in which artists’ performances and panel discussions were interwoven to continue to inspire, explore, and propose action steps for the future states of America. All of this took place in the magnificent Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. where the words of Kennedy framed our work:

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need [people] who can dream of things that never were and ask, ‘why not?

The perfect embodiment of that quote was the opening performance by Ekene Ijeoma, an interdisciplinary artist that uses data and life experiences to confront social issues. The piece was “Deconstructed Anthems” and the musicians played through the national anthem. We, the audience, stood and listened. The musicians played again, but some of the notes were missing. This kept happening with more and more notes missing. The last iteration was done in silence. Only when the musicians looked up and lowered their instruments did we realize we could clap. But what had we just clapped for? What had been deconstructed? Ekene then came to the stage and explained that his piece was about mass incarceration and that the removal of notes was done at the same rate at which people are imprisoned in the United States. And we had stood for this?

So began our day together—a day that continued to juxtapose some of the most intractable issues of our time with artists and art that helped us explore these issues.

Find the full version of Linda's experience at the 2018 Kennedy Center Arts Summit here

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