Hundreds of Artists and Activists Launch Partnership to Fight Xenophobia

A group of prominent artists have partnered to respond to increased xenophobia and the threatened closing of physical borders. Laurie Anderson, Laura Michalchyshyn and Tanya Selvaratnam are the founders of the Federation, an initiative the press release describes as "an unprecedented coalition of individuals and organizations committed to keeping cultural borders open."


The organization launches October 11 with a panel discussion on art and activism, in collaboration with the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. The conversation will feature Federation and New York artists including Alsarah, Laurie Anderson, Tanya Selvaratnam, Sara Driver, Eugene Hernandez, Kali Holloway, Barbet Schroeder, and more.

On January 20, the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration, the Federation will spearhead an Art Day of Action, a series of in-person and online events for artists and art institutions nationwide. Details for each event are being finalized, but participants can download an Art Day of Action toolkit (available November 1) offering information and resources.

Confirmed participants in the Federation include Alsarah, the Ally Coalition, Brava, GlobalFest, Incite (Columbia University), New York Live Arts, Mo Ogrodnik (New York University), Spotify, St. Ann’s Warehouse, StoryCorps, Anne WaldmanPEN America, PS122, and the Public Theater.

Shanta Thake, director of Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater and co-director of GlobalFest, explained, "The arts have always been at the center of building and strengthening communities, uplifting voices and bending the arc of history toward justice. The Federation is an expression on behalf of the arts community to urgently defend and uphold freedom of expression through acts both simple and profound that tell the fullest living history of what it means to be American.”

Federation co-founder Laurie Anderson added, "As an activist and member of WAC and Occupy, I'm inspired by the direct action arm of the Federation.”

The Federation has five guiding principles: 

  1. Keep cultural borders open.
  2. Stand up for freedom of expression and provide safe spaces for that expression to occur.
  3. Fight back around defunding of the arts.
  4. Use the arts as a catalyst for empathy and critical thinking between diverse communities.
  5. Acknowledge the validity and necessity of different approaches towards upholding these principles.

While forces work overtime to close our physical borders, the Federation and its member artists and institutions aim to keep the cultural borders wide open. 

On Inauguration Day 2017, a number of prominent institutions participated in the J20 Art strike, in which artists such as Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman and Marilyn Minter called on museums and galleries either to close or adjust their programming in protest of the incoming administration. The Whitney in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Walker Center in Minneapolis offered pay-what-you-wish admission. The Brooklyn Museum hosted a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again."

For more information, visit the Federation website or Facebook page

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