“The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe…Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.”
(Ways of Seeing, John Berger)
Last Thursday during Downtown Riverside’s Arts Walk we hosted our first “BVN Pop-up Gallery” at Division 9 Gallery. It’s a concept conceived by my millennial crew, the 20-somethings that populate my life and office. They wanted to create an instant space to bring young creatives together, a space where they could promote their art, present their work for public consumption, and express themselves freely. Gallery owner Cosme Cordova offered his community art space, a professional gallery, for our use. I added an interactive component to promote civic engagement, allowing guests to first think about the power they have as citizens, and then connect that power to their vote. I was curious to see what that would look like. With the many articles I have read over the years about the “snap-chat” generation – the self absorbed, entitled, trophy generation – I wanted to see what they had to say and give them a space to say it and celebrate democracy in their own creative way.
I wanted them to see that they have the power to change the world by being active and engaged citizens. “If you had the power to change,…” the question asked. And they tagged the blank chalkboard walls with some of the most profound and optimistic yet simple ideas in 3D chalk:
- “I would change the way I was educated”
- “I would create more KINDNESS”
- “I would end racism”
- “I would bring focus to what is important, HUMANITY, not profit”
- “REMOVE IGNORANCE”
- “I would rid the world of borders, make education free, and create one monetary system”
- “I would teach the world to listen”
- “I would legalize our parents”
- “I would change the way people see…”
The second installation was a simulation of a voting booth. My millennial crew added the phrase: “Question Everything,” giving the hundred or so young people who participated, the freedom to express what they believe instead of what happens to be on the ballot, and an opportunity to question the process and the system. One young person’s thoughts filled the blank “ballot”:
Why do we vote in a way
That hurts anyone who is not on our team?
So do “they”
Don’t use a ballot
As a bullet.
I believe in the power of art to change the world, so we’re taking the pop-up gallery on the road to give our creative young Californians a space to be change agents. “We curate hip-hop theater, music, video, photography, graphic arts, and any local creative expression into an instant exhibition,” our organizers explained. “Who knows, we may pop-up in your city soon.” #bvnpopup #engagecalifornia #uprisingcreatives #popupthevote