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Second-Responders - Artists, Musicians, Poets & Performers

A Global Organization Concept for Rescuing Arts Communities and Artists Under Duress Or In Times of Catastrophe

Announcement: not enough people responded in the first round of postings.
But when 20 or 50 do, perhaps we will have enough people to sit down (email or FBwise) and figure out how and what is needed and make it so.
I can't do that by myself -- its a big project and would need all our help, the help of the global arts communities. Email me if you have a serious interest in this idea. - rs.

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the 2nd Responder concept

Second-Responders* to the Arts

What If?

As imagination must precede plan, and plan precede reality, so too must a concept precede a proposal before anything can be realized. 2nd Responders to the Arts is only an imaginary concept, barely a napkin sketch. A first response to an unrealized dream...

What if, there existed a global arts organization for the purpose aiding with the rescue and recovery of the arts communities and their artists in a region stricken by natural or man-made disaster? Using the collective participation and resources of both local and global artists and arts organizations, this group, call it 'Second Responders to the Arts', was entirely focused on getting severely disrupted and stricken arts organizations and artists back on their feet as rapidly as possible so that they may offer something unique to the over-all rescue and recovery efforts. In this case, the role that art and artists might play in the rebuilding of the stricken communties themselves and the general recovery from the horrific shock of such disasters, of helping these regions to not only find relief and healing in the process, but of assisting them to recover and exercise their imaginations and to dream their own dreams about what the future of their villages, towns or cities might be. What if...?

What if, to begin with, local and global arts communities offer something as simple as organizing and providing some small performances to the shelters where victims of a disaster must often stay for weeks or months; where their morale diminishes with each passing day and their anxiety and depression increases. "Entertainment" is not the main focus of 2nd Responders to the Arts, but even that much can be a very useful tool in a major catastrophe?

What if, after a catastrophic event when first-responders have barely finished the initial of job of containing a disaster and saving lives, a big tent was erected in the midst of it and some artists and performers appeared, offering some music, dance, poetry readings, singing and other events for the still shocked victims and first responders as well as some much needed relief and distraction and time away from the horrors of what they had to deal with?

What if, as time went on, workshops and arts activities (dance, music, poetry, etc.) were added for the children and adult victims to not only get momentary respite from their ordeal, but to express and relieve themselves of some of the shock and psychic damage the ordeal had burdened them with? Sometimes this is offered as an individualized form of "art therapy", mostly to child victims. However, 2nd Responders would make the transfer of these tools available to the whole community, to use as they wished and gain from them what they could in the experience of using them as they might, without need for the mediation of trained therapists when art is used for specific individualized therapy?

What if the acquisition of those expressive tools also began to help exercise their imaginations to again dream; to hope they might do things with their ruined landscape and perhaps dream of things they had never thought about before?

What if those tools the arts community provided and the dreams that emerged from using them, also held back the carpetbaggers and profiteers and shock-doctrine forces because now the people had their own plans for what they wished to make of their own future? What if the government and the insurance industry were forced to provide for something different than just recreating what was before, house by house, store by store, because now the people had a different idea about "replacement" than FEMA or the insurance forms provided?

What if that tent, over time, turned into a well-designed and equipped permanent Community Arts Center where those who had first come with nothing could now learn to envision and dream the future of their community long into the future;

What if 2nd Responders to the Arts became a global organization of artists and arts organization with databases that knew in advance who the artists and their organizations were in every region and community on the planet; an organization that could mobilize rapidly for any disaster anywhere and begin the job of getting stricken arts communities on their feet and serving the people of their communities.

What if there were centralized message boards in place for artists who had been scattered to the winds so that local artists and their organizations could connect with one another for mutual support, make their losses and needs known, plan and organize cooperative projects and more quickly rebound and attend to the needs of their community; <

What if there was a 2nd Responders Arts Organization ready and able to help a disaster-stricken arts community get back on its feet as quickly as possible to do what it had always done, serve neighbors, preserve the best of what might be saved and envision an even better future from the ruins of what had been lost?

What if, what if, what if. . .?


* The term 'Second Responders' is generally taken to mean those who provide support for the work of First Responders. I suggest this definition should be broadened a little to include those who come on scene or behind the scenes, shortly after or even during the work of 1st Responders, to provide direct support to the victims and their stricken communities. - rs

Second-Responders to the arts

The Concept

An association of poets, artists, performers, architects and others, along with various local arts organizations, which can respond rapidly and globally to arts and arts-community emergencies anywhere in the world; from large-scale natural or human-caused disasters to the persecution or imprisonment of individual artists. Second-Responders for the Arts mission is to put artists from around the world on the scene and behind scenes of a disaster; working with databases, operating rescue websites, providing support equipment, funding the needs of stricken arts communities, lending aid to restore the arts and support the artists in communities which have suffered catastrophes or had their arts infrastructure disrupted by untoward events.

Why are Second-Responders to the Arts so important?

Whether it is the persecution of artists who dared speak truth to power, or some disaster which has stricken a community and torn the infrastructure of its arts community asunder, the damage suffered when basic arts creation and performance is severely disrupted is an incalulable loss. The very survival of a community may depend on the quick recovery of its artists and arts capabilities. Certainly, the health, vitality and speed of that recovery will be impacted in adverse ways when the arts are simply left to fend for themselves or falter in the aftermath.

Yet, rarely does the rapid rescue and re-assembly of a community's arts and artists figure high on the list of first or second response priorities. In natural or human-caused disasters, artists are not generally distinguished from others, and the restoration of their services are not considered essential. The psychic and cultural aftermath of such events, for which the arts may serve as a principal means to more rapid health and recovery, are not very high on the radar of response teams that are busy saving lives and providing essential goods and services. Often, when artists are unable to regroup and find their voice, the voice of the community itself gets lost in the turmoil. One of the mainstays of a healthy arts community has always been to encourage, develop and amplify the voices in the communities they serve.

When the event is of a more individual nature, when poets, writers or other artists subjected to prison or mistreatment for the practice of their art, many worthy advocacy groups from Amnesty International to The Poetry Foundation may step in to try and free the victims of such assaults. Yet the 'arts emergency' feature of the matter may be overlooked, and little gets done within the local arts community to insure the "missing voice" remains heard, world-wide and locally. Not only can Arts Second-Responders help to press for the early release and just treatment for the victims of persecution, but it can also support local artists to remain hopeful and actively engaged on behalf of their members, giving voice to themselves and their comrades.

Moving From 'Town Crier' to 'Second Responder'

Work as an artist, writer, poet, musician or other performer has historically been described as a relationship between the artist and their work, or between the work or performance and its audience. No less, the connection between a healthy arts community and a healthy society is well established. The arts, whether visual or spoken, danced or played have have always been at the leading edge of vitality and resiliancy for our local communities. In the 1950's Alan Ginsberg took the matter to its next stage when he described poets and other artists as "town criers", bringing word of serious issues that often remain undetected by the general public, but are looming in the future. Art and poetry have always been an adjunct of change and frequently an initiator of public actions that would otherwise not have happened.

Second Responders to the Arts proposes we take this fact to its next logical step: to position artists and performers of all kinds as Second-responders to global emergencies that seriously impact the arts and its practitioners. Arts Responders opens an avenue for artists to move beyond their traditional roles as a subdivision of the entertainment industry, and confront real-world problems with real=time actions We wish to develop and encourage direct actions, along with collaborative arts-response (in poetry, writing, music, painting, dance and other genre) in ways that can respond quickly to unfolding emergencies anywhere in the world, to help to rescue and repair damage to our communities and to ourselves at the first signs of impending crises.

There are many kinds of arts emergencies in which Artists as second Responders might engage:
  • Natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and the like, that disrupt the capacity for art to function and serve its community;
  • Human-made disasters such as war, famine, refugee migrations and the like;
  • Artists threatened with imprisonment, censorship or undue pressures and persecution from their governments or other groups that stifle the right of free expression;
  • Propaganda and other assaults that inpact the ability of artists to express themselves;
  • Marginalized and insulated artists (prisoners, indigenous peoples, refugees, and others) who would not otherwise know about arts organizations such as '100 Thousand Poets for Change', 'Arts Action Network' and similar global efforts that might be interested in their work and support them and their art.

These are but a few of the kinds of emergencies to which Second-Responders to the arts might usefully respond to mitigate the impacts of events that compromise the important work of artists of all kinds.

How might artists respond to such disasters? Actions might include things like:

  • Creating works related to emergency events and their aftermath; get and distribute local art productions related to what is happening; use art to help build morale and provide direction for future recovery.
  • In cases of artists being persecuted or censored, we can work to put pressure through our art, with our petitions and letters.
  • We can support the victims and their families, inform audiences through poetry, stories, paintings, performances and other actions;
  • we can celebrate the work of the persecuted or express outrage and dissent through our art;
  • We can let it be known that a tyrant or oppressive regime that attempts to silence artists and writers within its keep only risks amplifying the voice and message of those it persecutes.
  • Help local artists and performers in a disaster zone to get back on their feet as quickly as possible; build morale and give voice to the communities intimidated into silence;
  • Set up poetry, art and other workshops for children and adults in stricken communities;
  • host benefits and other events to raise funds and resources for recovery;
  • support and participate in events by local artists, help boost morale and to inspire and appreciate the work of first responders and others engaged on the ground in a disaster, as well as provide relief and entertainment for victims and first responders alike.

Where are we now. What is Needed?

Second-Responders is a heuristic idea. What we respond to, how we respond, what actions we can take are all matters up for discussion and our imaginations. If nothing else, it is clear we need a one-stop place to keep current on all disaster response situations where action might be called for. At present, there is no single site for all the arts and all those at risk to be described and embraced through calls for action.

One special focus of Arts Responders is how poets and other artists might respond to help with with early repair of an arts community after large-scale natural or human-made disasters such as the Japanese tsunami, or wars (too numerable to list), or mass dislocations of people. These are events in which the first-responders are primarily concerned, as they need to be, with saving lives, providing food and shelter and restoring effected communities to habitable conditions. The disruption and devastation to the arts generally receives a very low priority, when it is considered at all. Yet the sudden separation of communities from their capacity to express themselves through their arts may be one of the most serious and long-term adverse consequences of such disasters. We have seen this, for example, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it has taken more than fifty-years for the people who suffered those events to find their voices and begin to relate what happened in story, song, poem, dance and other genre. Save a few poets, such as Shiraz and Tamura, the silence of the hibakusha has been a great impediment to full recovery as well as global understanding of what these events meant to a culture and a people - a damage that still lingers, even a half-century later .

Imagine how the quick organization and support of local musicians in New Orleans, even as rescue was still underway and clean up only begun, might have accelerated the recovery of that city after Katrina. Consider how, for instance, the band on the Titanic, though they didn't survive - was instrumental in saving lives and maintaining calm. Or, how quick aid and reestablishing arts communities after the Fukishima tsunami, or the Hati earthquake might have helped save lives as well as laid a foundation for future recovery, hope and vitality of those communities.

What might artists as second-responders actually do in an emergency?

How second-response from the global arts and poetry community might intervene and assist is entirely new ground which needs to be explored. It is hoped that Second-Responders to the arts can begin to discover these role potentials as they engage in their work, take actions and perhaps set examples for others to follow. Though we may not be crawling through the rubble and putting our lives at risk in our role as 'second-response', our rapid action may make an important, even critical contribution to a stricken community's ability to recover.

It is entirely speculative at this point about what arts second-response teams might find useful in arts recovery. Certainly there will be a need to build contact databases of local arts groups and artists throughout the world to have on hand in case of an emergency. Such databases can be used to contact known groups and individuals to see if they are safe, what the situation is on the ground, what kind of support they might need for themselves and to get their organizations up and going as quickly as possible. Arts Responders might help distribute work related to a disaster to others within and ouside a stricken Globally, it can work to keep the world informed.

We might organize to send art supplies, laptops or whatever is needed to get impacted arts back on their feet at quickly as possible. It might arramge for notable artists from around the globe to participate in events bringing attention to the needs of stricken communities, to console and boost morale and, give hope and express solidarity. 2nd Responders may simply let the communities and people effected by a disaster know that they are not alone.

There remains one element of the Arts Response mission that is as important as all other activities combined:

Often overlooked in the press of recovery efforts, invisible to those striken by a disaster, is the damage to the capacity of a community to dream. In a disaster, this may be one of the worst caualties of all. Second-responders to the arts brings with it natural skill sets of imagination and the art of dreaming. Not only can this be conveyed to the victims of a disaster, but it is something that can be transferred to them to use as they see fit.

Through workshops, internships, hands-on training and other ways, creativity and imagination can be passed along from performer to audience, from teacher to student and from person to person. The capacity to dream not only brings with it new energy and resilience in the face of adversity, but can also prompt a community to rethink and re-envision what they want their lives to be like in the future.

Some communities may want to recreate what they had in the past. Others may wish to dream about a future very different from the one they had before. They might consider a carbon-neutral community surrounded by cooperative farms, where before they were only the usual assortment of shops bordered by subdivisions. Another might wish to develop a solid platform for its own local enterprise and sustainable industry rather than depending on trying to attract new outside investement as they had always done.

It doesn't really matter what form a community's vision might take. Only that it has the capacity to consider options that may have never been considered or have been completely unavailable in the past. One of the horrors of a disaster is that everything has been destroyed. One of the advantages may be that the people who have suffered that destruction now have a clean pallet to work with in rebuilding. They have the opportunity to realize possibilities for themselves and their children that simply weren't there in the past.

Those options become possible only when a community recovers its ability to dream. Art Responders are in a good position to help that process along, perhaps more than any other profession.

In addition, a community that is awake again and dreaming about its future may better stave off shock doctrine exploitation that invariably shows up to redesign stricken communities in ways that mainly profit themselves, often at the expense of the former residents.

Long-term a solid second responder organization might help a stricken area plan, develop and fund its own permanent art and performance centers where the people of the community can foster their skills to rebuild and sustain their new community.

What Needs To Be Done Now?

The first and most important task is to form a large enough group to take on the job of midwiving the idea of artists and performers as second-response teams to aid the recovery of the arts in places where it is damaged or threatened. If you are here, reading this, then we hope you will seriously think about becoming involved, if only to lend your ideas and imagination to the creation of this powerful instrument for positive and progressive change. There are many directions and instances crying for help. What is needed is to explore ways an Arts Responder organization might answer that call. Speak to your friends and the arts organizations you work with. Ask how they might wish to be involved and ecourage them to join in actively responding when and where the arts capacity of our communities is compromised or endangered.

Please, hit the email button above and let us know that you wish to be onboard. There is no obligation on your part to do any particular thing or take any specific action. What you do, if anything, is entirely up to you. But, without your participation, Second-Responders to the Arts, simply cannot happen.

Thank you,

Red Slider,
steward and temporary facilitator. Second-Responders to the arts

other Arts Organizations that may be of interest:

'100 Thousand Poets for Change'

'Arts Action Network'

'Creative Sonoma'

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