Why are the arts so often considered frills when it comes to what is needed in schools, in politics, in so many parts of life? The capacity for creative response is needed in all walks of life. Richard Kamler, an art professor at San Francisco University, is a passionate advocate of an art of social engagement. His belief in the power of art to reduce violence and improve social outcomes is bolstered from what he has seen first-hand from his work with prisoners and students, as well as from his international forays aimed at convincing politicians "to include artists at the table." He is quick to cite the example of Vaclav Havel, an artist who became the elected leader of his country. Havel is a playwright, poet and dissident--and a figure much revered today. I wanted to hear more from Richard Kamler and so there's a follow up interview with him which is equally intriguing.
Craig Downer, a wildlife biologist, and his friend Elyse Gardner are not artists, per se, but are passionately devoted to helping bring about a change--they're dedicated to preserving wild horses in the western United States. These horses are being driven off the land and "zeroed out" as they put it. These beautiful animals not only embody and represent something of the spirit of the west, but are beneficial to the environment in several ways. Our interview is a great introduction to a problem that's likely to get much worse without increasing support and intervention on behalf of these wild horses.
And a delightful addition to this issue is an article and video I ran across a while back about the artist Patrick Dougherty. You'll enjoy this article by David Roth, founder of squarecylinder.com. The video of Dougherty was made by John Yoyogi Fortes.
Wrapping things up is Viral Mehta's reflection on how apparently trivial differences in the way we express ourselves can make a world of difference. In Spanish, to thank a person, one will say muchas gracias-many thanks. A typical response to this, as the author was poised to say, is de nada-it's nothing. Then he asked his friend, Pancho, if that was the best way to say it. Pancho suggested that he might want to say instead con mucho gusto-with much pleasure. The exchange sparked a thoughtful little essay that's both edifying and a pleasure to read. --Welcome to this issue of our newsletter.
If you have suggestions for some great content, let us know. You could email me online.
Richard Whittaker is the founder of works & conversations magazine.
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