Art, Identity and Justice: Art Brings our Movement to Life

Marjory Hamann
Sabina Haque and Carole Zoom at opening of Zoomtopia

Last night’s opening of Zoomtopia  in Southeast Portland showed how art can bring people together and be a catalyst for social change. It’s an affordable, fully ADA-accessible design and performance space, and the brainchild of MRG Board Co-Chair Carole Zoom. The place was overflowing as dancers, politicians and social justice activists rubbed elbows.

Zoomtopia has made physical accessibility a core value, raising the bar for the local arts community, where too many performance and exhibition spaces shut people in wheelchairs out. At the same time, it creates an environment where tenants like Wobbly Dance can present their own artistic vision to the world.

Then there was Vietnamese choreographer Minh Tran’s show with Tere Mathern last weekend. For his final performance as a dancer, Minh Tran created Kiss, an exploration of sexual identity inspired by his own coming out process.

The piece wove together themes of vulnerability and rebellion, yearning for self-discovery and finding self-acceptance in a society that pressures us all to conform. And it did it all without saying a word, leaving each person in the audience to draw on their own experiences to interpret what was happening on stage.

That’s the power of art. It can evoke the complexity of human experience and reflect our assumptions back to us. Ultimately, it has the power to deepen our understanding of the world we live in.

At MRG we’re exploring how the power of art can inform and transform the social justice movement. Our first move has been to re-design the Lilla Jewel Fund for Women Artists to build a stronger connection between women artists and Oregon's grassroots movement for social change.

Our 2010 Lilla Jewel artists—Natalie Ball, Sabina Haque, and Sharon Martini—have been listening to MRG grantees talk about their work, and creating new art informed by their stories.

I can’t wait to see what they create! We’ll be unveiling their finished pieces at our annual Justice Within Reach event in Portland on April 10th. Join us as we celebrate Oregon’s social justice movement—and the transformative power of art.

Photo: Lilla Jewel artist Sabina Haque with Carole Zoom at Zoomtopia opening