Share the Mic: Performing Social Justice Artivism
Artivism—a word combining art and activism—emerged as part of the vernacular in recent years. As anti-racism protests proliferate, artists are using their work to catalyze political participation and action in ways that move beyond traditional paradigms of activism. Join the Fowler, LA Commons’ Karen Mack, comedian and performance artist Kristina Wong, and Chicana feminist Martha Gonzalez of rock band Quetzal for a conversation about how one can powerfully organize, and engage hearts and minds, by creating a narrative about struggles to promote justice through art.
Karen Mack is founder and Executive Director of LA Commons, an organization dedicated to promoting Los Angeles’ diverse neighborhoods through locally based, interactive, artistic and cultural programming. LA Commons has implemented community art projects, tours, and classes in partnership with organizations such as the Fowler Museum, National Endowment for the Arts, LA Department of Cultural Affairs, and LA County Arts Commission. Mack holds an M.P.A. from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. She is a past president of the board of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and of the City’s Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.
Martha Gonzalez, Ph.D., is a Chicana Artivista, born and raised in East Los Angeles. She is the lead singer, percussionist, and songwriter for Quetzal—an “East LA Chican@ rock group” that tells the social, cultural, political, and musical stories of people in struggle, rooted in the complex cultural currents of life in the barrio, social activism, and feminist stance. In 2020, she released her book, Chican@ Artivistas: Music, Community and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles. In addition, Quetzal just released Puentes Sonoros on Smithsonian Folkways Label. Gonzalez is currently an Associate Professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicanx Latinx Studies at SCRIPPS / Claremont Colleges. At UCLA, she majored in Ethnomusicology with a focus on music, dance, and drumming of Ghana and Cuba.
Kristina Wong is a performance artist, comedian, writer, and elected representative whose work has been recognized through many grants, including Creative Capital, COLA Master Artist Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and eight Los Angeles Artist-in-Residence awards. Her long-running show, Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, looked at the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women and is now a concert film. Her recent piece, Kristina Wong for Public Office, is a simultaneous real-life stint as the elected representative in Koreatown Los Angeles and campaign rally show. During the pandemic, she founded the Auntie Sewing Squad, a collective of volunteers sewing facemasks for vulnerable communities.
Share the Mic
The Fowler believes in the civic duty of museums to give forum to different points of view. This series shares our platform with thought leaders—artists, activists, and allies—who are guiding us along the arc of justice.
Images left to right: Image courtesy Karen Mack; Martha Gonzalez. Photo credit: Pablo Aguilar; Kristina Wong. Photo credit: Tom Fowler.