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The Arts and Social Transformation

Published: June 15, 2020

Art empowers. We experience it in the voice of Ella Fitzgerald and the choreography of Alvin Ailey; in the sculpture of Augusta Savage and the painting of Jacob Lawrence; in the performance of Denzel Washington and the presence of Dorothy Dandridge; in the words of Ralph Ellison and the heart of Maya Angelou. Power emanates from the work of countless Black artists, sowing the rich and colorful landscape that is American culture.

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Art remembers. Painting, music, film, literature, all art forms are the repository of a society’s collective memory. Art preserves what fact‐based historical records cannot: how it felt to exist in a particular place at a particular time. Nowhere is this more evident than in music encompassing more than 200 years of struggle and oppression for Black Americans, from the soulful spirituals of the enslaved to the poetic lyricists of inner-city rap.

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Art confronts. Art stirs the unconscious, and challenges our conscience by translating experiences across time and space. It gives voice to the politically or socially disenfranchised. A song, film or novel can rouse emotions in those who encounter it. In the rallying anthem of the civil rights movement, We Shall Overcome, and the 2018 biopic of Jim Crow cruelty, Green Book, we see how art teaches, inspires and connects us to our human family while reminding us of our failures.

Art nourishes. At the individual level, research has shown art affects the fundamental sense of self. Art heals the hurting, redresses the wrong and gives dignity to the soul. The inclusion of arts in the education of young people is critical and yet, it can be limited to a privileged few with the access and economic means. It is our commitment that no child is ever turned away and we are proud of the services our teaching artists offer in schools, in community centers and on‐site.

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Since 1983, Ruth Eckerd Hall has provided a stage for expression that runs the gamut of human experience. Diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our mission, from the artists we present, to the audiences we serve, to the children we teach. Likewise, we too are listening, learning, and stand in solidarity with all persons seeking a fair and just society. Art is a catalyst for change and we are both honored and humbled to play our part.

Susan M. Crockett, President & CEO
Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc.

Artwork by Bearden, Romare. Billie Holiday. 1973.