Breathing Free Together

I don’t often tear up at artist receptions, but I did today as I watched the many artists of all ages and backgrounds receive recognition for sharing their lens and talent for the public art project, “Breathing Free Together,” organized by a phenomenal grassroots organization, The San Ramon Social Justice Collective. SRJC is lead by some of the most beautiful, compassionate and empowering people I’m proud to know (and to have had the pleasure of meeting in person today after Zoom calls and emails!). The work they have done is not easy. The work have done is not for themselves. The beauty of their work is that they are helping create a legacy for their community.

Using public art as a medium for awareness, communities are able to challenge some of the biggest issues of our time. Public art in an innovative way to reach people in their everyday environments and confront easily overlooked issues. “Breathing Free Together” is the union of both of these things. The “Breathing Free Together” art project has a unique way of moving the needle forward by encouraging dialogue on racial equity and justice. It gives a platform for those who feel voiceless, leading to healing through collaboration and understanding- a true service to the community.

Public art should reflect the community around it, and represent the hopes and lives of all community members. This is a day that will linger in heart for quite some time. Knowing the hill SRJC had to climb to make this possible, well,…proud doesn’t seem enough to sum it up.

Keynote for One World

Namaha Foundation for the Arts recently hosted an online event called, “One World.” This San Ramon, California based non profit organization works towards bringing artists from all genres and cultures together! The foundation is an arts group put together by Artistic Director of Ushanjali School of Dance, Naina Shastri and her Senior Students from the dance school. Thank you to the Namaha Foundation and Naina for the invitation to be a keynote speaker. To learn more about this wonderful foundation, events or to learn how to support it, please click here.

The following is the keynote address I shared for One World on June 27, 2021. The Role of Art in Bringing People Together and Building Bridges. 

I’m honored to be with you today in celebration of the multi ethnic performance called “One World.” I want to start out by sharing a secret with you. Perhaps, it’s one of the best kept secrets of our time, but my hope is that you will go out and share this secret far and wide. I know, I know, …it won’t be a secret anymore if you all go out and share it, but this is one secret not to keep. In fact, it’s been a secret for far too long. Now more than ever, our community, our country – our world needs to know it.

In a time where there seems to be such divisiveness in our world, felt right down to the core of our own communities, when our inner circles grew even smaller due to the pandemic. Where outlets like social platforms kept us in contact, but lacked much on an authentic connection we craved. In a time where we seem to talk at one another instead of to one another, where judgements easily creep into minds. Where emerging from life in a pandemic has left us all with wounds to heal, some of which –those anxieties and issues still not even realized. Art now has an even bigger role to play in our daily lives.

Art! Yes, Art. If we truly want a stronger world, we must create a bridge to art, not walls.
Art binds us together. Culture strengthens the character of communities. The Arts are an important way for people to come together through meaningful, shared experiences. Art literally brings us together- at galleries, performances, events, festivals and culturally through our commonality, shared stories and connections. This type of binding transcends our differences and celebrates the uniqueness of this experience leaving imprints of not only belonging but uniting us.

Art helps us empathize and rear compassionate leaders. The arts uplift and inspire- opening our minds, hearts and even pocket books! We can’t deny the financial impact that the arts have in the state of California alone–according to The Americans for the Arts, in 2019, it was a $804 billion industry. That’s a large opportunity for bridge building!

So here is the secret. The special sauce. The key to building bridges and bringing people together…Learn how to embrace diversity by little daily actions that build up to a more enriched world~

  • Welcome people into your circle of varying beliefs and thought practices
  • Enroll in dance class
  • Listen to a music artist your child or your neighbor likes
  • Learn to say hello in another language
  • Be open to listening
  • Cook for others– sample a food you’ve never had from a county you have yet to visit
  • Take a trip to a museum
  • Attend a concert
  • Volunteer backstage for your local community theatre group
  • Paint in the park
  • Learn about the land you live on
  • Advocate for access to arts programing regardless of your zip code
  • March in a parade or protest that isn’t “about you,”
  • Inspire leadership to mirror the aesthetics of towns by reflecting those who reside in
    the community and beyond
  • Ask questions
  • Read more books and read far less comments online.

It’s essential that we create space in our lives not only for the Arts, but reserve a space for our humanity.

Thank you.