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What is ARTivism with Mireya Gomez-Contreras
onFebruary 20, 2023

Our Deputy Director, Mireya Gomez-Contreras, is moderating a panel of creatives this Thursday at ARTivism, part of the fifth annual bilingual Climate of Hope Forum that is hosted by Regeneración Pajaro Valley. This year's program will feature artists who promote healing, environmental justice, and community resilience through poetry, film, music, photography, murals, and other art forms.

Here’s a glimpse into a recent conversation with Mireya.

What is ARTivism? In its simplest form, it is a combination of art and activism. A whole activism subculture is driven by artists. Artists show what activists are up to in ways that people can connect to - they put activism and the things we care about on the map. When I think about it, activism wouldn’t be sustained without art. It brings joy into the seriousness of it all. No social justice movement would succeed without music at the end of a rally, posters in alleyways that reach people that nothing else might, or statues memorializing people or protests so that they live forever. It makes my mouth water, thinking about the neverending power of the arts.

What connections do you see between Regeneration-Pájaro Valley Climate Action and art? The arts are a vehicle to make ideas accessible to everyone. There’s real complexity of climate change, like, what do we do locally about polar bears on melting ice? Art makes complex issues relatable, local, and actionable. And sometimes fun! With the artist at the center - the culture maker or culture bearer - they popularize and engage a more complete audience. Art gets people talking. There’s a way in which our fear can melt away when the arts bring people together. People open up; there’s curiosity and wonder. It catches people’s attention. A mural, for instance, can point out ways we can save water and see the interconnectedness of our lives and the natural world.

Is there a personal connection to this work for you? My passion is for connecting people to dialogue and taking action. At the very core of it, this sounds corny, but I feel a fire in my chest. It’s always about social justice for me. I will always pull people together to make the world better. Nothing can burn out that fire in my chest. I was born with it. I wonder about other people’s fire and want to bring that out. I feel a deeply spiritual responsibility. I’m learning to be with it.

I was excited to be approached to be the panel moderator. As a person born and raised in the Pajaro Valley and raising children here, and as a Chicana woman, it feels pretty incredible that I can represent this organization, these artists, and the Pajaro Valley.

As a moderator, what do you hope to accomplish? As a moderator, my work is to bring together the words and work of artists. To listen for what isn’t said and to find patterns among them. That’s fun and exciting to me. This panel calls me to listen differently for what’s underneath.

What’s the Arts Council's role in this work? We’re in the business of putting the arts at the center - to help integrate art into more areas of our lives. Art isn’t meant to be behind closed doors or for some people, somewhere, sometimes. The Arts Council can draw the throughline - the necessary intersection between economic development, mental health, housing issues, and the environment - things that are important to everyone’s life. In the Pajaro Valley, there’s so much underneath the surface. We are working to uncover that through placemaking, partnerships, and supporting the organizations and artists who are doing this important work

Why should someone tune in to the conference? To honor the artists and take what you learn into the world. To learn more about artivism happening here, to hear the stories behind some of the murals they see in our community, and about the people behind the hand-lettered names on art around town. And I’ll try to make it fun!

Join the ARTivism conference online Thursday, February 23, from 4-6 pm. Tickets are sliding scale $0-100. Click the "Learn More" button to register.