TWO AWARDS THAT ENCOURAGE DESIGN TO AFFECT POSITIVE SOCIETAL CHANGE
The Simms Taback Award/The Graphic Artists Guild: Given to an individual whose integrity and tireless action has improved the lot of graphic artists. www.graphicartistsguild.org
The Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award/The FJC Foundation: Supports projects that inform and inspire the public and the dedicated designers who create them, in particular designers of color. citizenrd.com/award-donation
THE AGE OF UNREASON
reality most people (not just extremists) think they are right, that
their reasoning is conscious, logical, unemotional, universal and
functions to serve their best interest. That’s what we have come to
believe in western culture. Yet new knowledge about neuroscience shows
us that this is absolutely and totally untrue. In reality, most of us
(regardless of our intelligence, education level or self-discipline) are
oblivious to the fact that 98 percent of thought is unconscious and
therefore not in our conscious control. It’s also not language-based.
two percent of thinking that is conscious takes lots of energy and
time; time we can’t afford since we make the vast majority of our
decisions on the spot. Yet because we believe we’ve thought through our
positions, we tend to stubbornly stick to their rightness (as
individuals and as groups). And we seek out ways to reconfirm our
positions (thanks for making that so easy Google) and avoid evidence
that we are wrong (the delete button).9
I THINK THEREFORE I AM—OR AM I?
admire people who we think think quickly and who we think are
unwavering in their views (we equate this with sharp, deep
intelligence). They must be right—we think. Yet that quick wit is often “shoot from the hip” thinking. And, if you were to analyze what these “sharp thinkers” were saying, you'd see all the holes, flaws and
fallacies. Conversely, people we think are hesitating in answering may
actually be consciously thinking (e.g., ruminating over their answers),
which we erroneously denigrate as waffling, as indecision.
having illusions about what’s going on inside their big brains, we also
falsely admire people because of the shapes of their heads. We like
broad chins and wide set eyes in males. Central casting reinforces this
illusion; leading men and women are relentlessly good looking. Sadly,
this is also how we tend to choose our leaders: fast talkers with
engaging smiles. And tall. They should be tall—and have good hair.
to our perpetual self-deceptions our flawed memories. Once any event
happens, just one minute after (or even sooner) that event has become
warped. The more we think about it, the more entrenched and altered that
memory becomes. And since we love good memories we often do things just
to make them. Disneyland is a perfect example of a place made for
memories (and photo albums). We humans are dreamers, which is vital to
our evolution when we bring our dreams to life.
philosophers have the ultimate freedom of expression, of dreamtime.
There is no critic, no client and no middle man, nor is there a censor
placing limits on the imagination. It’s a license to obsess. Creative
works have lead to dialogue, some to real progress, de-evolution and
everything in between in America.
AMERICA NOW AND HERE
airing of tension has been unique to American culture and it’s an
important quality in much of contemporary art. And, since the success of
democracy depends on group dialogue and cooperation, we use our
creativity to jumpstart the discussion—to explore the hard issues, get
beyond the ten-second sound bite.
Artist Eric Fischl, who was raised
in the 1950s against a backdrop of alcoholism and a country club
culture obsessed with image over content, has found a focus in
undercurrents in his work, “that which cannot be said.” After 9/11, he
realized artists could help reroute the polarization of America to a
positive avenue. He is, in that way, bringing art back into focus.
America Now and Here is sparking dialogue through a multi-disciplinary
installation/performance experience, coming soon to your hometown during
its two-year tour of the United States.10
Fischl has partnered with
hundreds of artists, poets and performers such as Laurie Anderson,
Billy Collins, Barbara Kruger, Ghada Amer, Anne Lindberg, Sally Mann,
Tom Friedman, Feist, DJ Spooky, Damien Rice, Kiki Smith, Roseanne Cash
and Chuck Close. Their work is meant to get people thinking, responding,
talking together, on their home turf. What does America—this great
democratic experiment—mean to us, to you, now and here?
of this county-fair-meets-circus was in May 2011, in the heartland,
Kansas City. America Now and Here partnered with fifty local community
organizations and over one hundred artists of all sizes and stripes from
the region to ensure the greatest reach. Young local artists were
enlisted as well to act as guides, to facilitate dialogue, to help
humanize art. Plays were acted out in public as if they were exchanges
being overheard. Guides were armed with ten questions to get the
conversation going with visitors such as: What message do you want to
send to our country? What is the role that art plays in American
identity? All these gestures become great conversation starters and help
people relax, pause and truly engage with art; to think about what art
is saying about America and to contribute their voice to a national
While we humans are very quick to caricature others in very
negative ways, we rarely see our own flaws clearly. Dorothy Dunn,
director of America Now and Here, says, “We catch ourselves jumping to
conclusions. People assume they know the message. We keep it playful,
which helps bring people together who never gather. Gets them out of
Standing near artist Anne Lindberg’s Democracy, a
typographic word mashup in rusted bent wire, a guide asked a young girl
in the crowd, “How does this represent democracy to you?” To which the
girl answered, “Because all the words are jumbled together and don't
make sense.” A few adults present interpreted that to mean that only a
few coherent voices can be heard in a democracy, the rest is noise, lost
or repressed. The voices of those underserved, underrepresented often
do not get heard. This conversation was off to a good start.
THE HEART OF CREATIVITY
creators—the artist, designer, illustrator, photographer, creative
director—each has a gift, the facility to reimagine and unjumble the
mess; to create beauty and visualize a distilled, considered point of
view; to apply that point of view to even the most mundane
communication. We are living in a dangerous time, an era of inequality,
division and despair in America. This is how we can help to engage
everyone in our country to heal the broken heart of democracy. CA
1. Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker J. Palmer.
2. The Political Mind, George Lakoff.
3. Bill of Rights
4. Amateur comes from the Old French (lover of) and Latin (lover).
6. Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker J. Palmer.
9. The Political Mind, George Lakoff.
10. The 2012/2013 inaugural tour is the first phase of a national
experience designed to engage communities large and small across
the country for years to come.