How Can You and Your Friends Change the World?

Take some cues from the founding members of You Are Here—a non-profit seeking real social change through the arts.

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Last week was the official launch of You Are Here, a new non-profit collective comprising a diverse set of artists whose goal is to produce interdisciplinary art, and secure funding and workspaces for other artists.

What You Need to Know

You Are Here was founded by Lilleth Glimcher and another young woman who just goes by Rad (which is rad)—both artists, activists, and directors—with help from curator Sabrina Hanh, artist Rachel Libeskind, and young figures from New York's art scene. Though each member of You Are Here has a growing individual oeuvre, the group is dedicated to building a network of artists committed to lifting each other throughout their communities, both in real life and online.

"I realized how delusional I had been about the state of our country and about my own privilege." —Lilleth Glimcher

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The event was a combination art-exhibit-meets-dance-party with artists Libeskind, Ann Lewis, Ladin Awad, and more presenting work alongside music by Julia Aranther, Nabiyah Be, and Kevin Sun. This launch will help the group fundraise for their upcoming projects, including a theatre piece by Dan Giles, The Blast, and Glimcher's short film, WYLD. Proceeds will also go toward a major component of You Are Here: a manual called MAAP (Making Art and Activism Possible) that will serve as a step-by-step guide for community building through the arts, and a 2018 summer program for the same purpose.

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Lilleth Glimcher, Rad, and Rachel Libeskind share some of the rewards and challenges of art and activism, and how you can get involved.

Learn How to Be an Activist at Any Age

Cindy Trihn, 'Bodega Strike Against Muslim Ban,' 2017.

Rad: "I guess you can say it runs in the blood. I grew up volunteering and being fed a culture of equity, inclusion, and non-hierarchy. Developing my artistic practice and awakening to how that can fuse with my activism has been incredibly freeing and powerful."

Lilleth Glimcher: "While I've always felt stronger about politics, it wasn't until this election cycle that I realized how delusional I had been about the state of our country and about my own privilege. I've made it my mission to surround myself with humans that have different perspectives on the world so I can better understand how to create space for equal distribution of opportunity and power."

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Organize Your Friends and Peers by Sharing Your Vision

Rad: "Ask yourself, what do you care about? What couldn't you live without? What are your favorite parts of your community? What are you lacking? Pick three things. Research those three things in your community, in your region, in your state, nationally, and then internationally. See which of your local or state representatives deal with these issues. See which businesses, institutions, or individuals in your communities support or challenge those things. Meet with friends and hear about their three things. See where your three things converge with theirs. Create a six-month plan to tackle one to two of those issues. Invite others to join. Analyze what was successful and what was not. Create a new six-month plan. Rinse and repeat until you live in a community you fully, deeply love."

Start Taking Care of Yourself Before Anything Else

Ann Lewis, 'One in Five of Us.'
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Rad: "The personal is political; you don't have to make huge, sweeping actions to contribute as a citizen. Start with yourself and the world within yourself. Are you practicing self-care? Are you creating a sustainable work-life balance? Do you know your neighbors? Owners of your corner stores? Whose art are you supporting? Who are you inviting to dinner? How do you react to discriminatory behavior or remarks from friends or family?"

Look to Those Who've Already Done the Work

Cindy Trinh, 'Millions March for #BlackLivesMatter,' 2014.
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Rad: "An incredible organization already exists that is fighting for what you want to fight for or support. Do your research to see how you can become an accomplice to an already existing structure."

LG: "As a white person, it's integral that you start by listening. Listen, listen, listen, and educate yourself. If you are trying to help a group of people, don't assume you know what they need."

Feel Confident That Art Still Matters

Ladin Awad, from the series 'Baladi.'

Rachel Libeskind: "Art exists within the political forum to serve as a constant reminder of what true and free expression sounds like and looks like and feels like (and what the boundaries and forms of said expression can be). The role of the artist making socially conscious art is to give rise to other voices, to create a space for a dialogue that otherwise might be stymied by societal discomfort."

"I think that the most effective work makes you ask the right questions, makes you feel uncomfortable." —Rad

Rad: "I have always seen and used art as a method to combat injustice in the form of invisibility, appropriation, lack of resources, elitist structures in the art world. I long for a day when our communities can use the arts as a way of gathering to celebrate, mourn, question, overcome together. We are growing more and more isolated; it's killing us and our world. The only way I see to a new way is in reviving community and the ways in which we live together, which prioritizes art."

Challenge the Status Quo

Rachel Libeskind, 'The Day the Father Died.'

RL: "The artist has to be able to connect their world with one that has room for voices they have never heard before. Artwork in any medium that awakens the viewer's senses, shaking up some unseen particles of their subconsciousness so that they are more alert, more aware of what is happening around them, is doing its job. Art does not exist to make its viewers more complacent than our society already allows them to be. It has to do the opposite."

Rad: "Creating politically and socially engaged art is tricky. Figuring out the balance of message, metaphor, symbolism, and context takes a life's work. A lot of this kind of work can seem prescriptive or like propaganda, so I think that the most effective work makes you ask the right questions, makes you feel uncomfortable, makes you feel deeply or calls you to take some kind of action. This kind of work also takes extra sensitivity because it deals with the most vulnerable of topics. If you're trying to tell a story that's not yours or one that you don't have a personal understanding of, make sure you have someone who does creating it with you, so that the story is authentic and complex."

You Are Here is open to future collaborations. You can reach out via their website, you-are-here.org or on Instagram @you.are.here.nonprofit.

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