Art and Healing

Today Roots Fest kicked off in Baltimore to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Alternate Roots. I had been asked to serve on the National Honorary Committee for Roots, which I felt is quite an honor.

Alternate Roots for me is best described as a service organization that serves those who work at the intersection of arts, community, and activism.

So today was the lead off day for the three day national learning exchange. The final part of the day discussions kicked off. There are three discussions slated for the exchange–healing, inter-generational leadership, and sustainability.

After a lead out from three speakers, we broke into small groups. Our group of eight entered into a nice discussion, which left me with a few take-aways, but prompted a lengthy internal gear grinding which is manifesting itself here:

In order for Art to have a “healing” ability, there must obviously be a wound in need of healing. In order to heal a wound you have to do several things. First, you must acknowledge the wound. If it’s a wound between two people, we must have both sides acknowledge the wound. Second, we must be lay bare the wound–which means we have an honest approach to it, where both sides scrub the sucker hard and long and then pour copious amounts of hydrogen peroxide on it. It isn’t going to feel good, but this is the only way to really start the healing. We’ve got to get at the root of the issue, and we’ve got to understand the full context, and we’ve got to get everyone (both sides, all the generations, all the backgrounds) on the same page. Then, we have to take the time and have the patience to let it heal. We have to dress the wound. And then we have to change the dressing. And eventually we’ll have a scab. But we can’t pick at it! We’ve got to let it do its thing. And in the end, we’re left with a scar. And we’d better not ignore that scar. We should do as all warriors with battle scars do: celebrate it. Talk freely about how it came about, and the great pains we took to heal it, and how we’ve overcome it, and it has become a part of our story.

Baltimore has some serious wounds to heal. The arts could do it. But will an audience come to see it? Will we be able to get both sides of the wound to acknowledge we have healing to do? Will the artists capable of generating the work come to play? And will they work with the people involved? Will they give them ownership and voice, and the power to curate their own experiences? And will they watch, and listen, and allow their minds to be changed?

I’m excited that Roots Fest is converging on the Highway to Nowhere this weekend. It’s there that we’ll see the first step in what is going to be a long healing process.

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