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Arlene Goldbard is a writer, speaker, social activist, and consultant who works for justice, compassion and honor in every sphere, from the interpersonal to the transnational. She is known for her provocative, independent voice and her ability to inspire and activate.
Arlene's essays have appeared in such journals as Art in America, The Independent, Theatre, High Performance and Tikkun. Her books include Crossroads: Reflections on the Politics of Culture; New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development; Community, Culture and Globalization; and her novel Clarity.
Arlene has helped dozens of organizations to make plans and solve problems. They include nonprofits such as the Independent Television Service, the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art; foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media; a score of state arts agencies; and many others.
She is President of the Board of Directors of The Shalom Center. She has served as Vice Chair of the Board of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and Tsofah/President of Congregation Eitz Or in Seattle. She co-founded such activist groups as the San Francisco Artworkers' Coalition, the California Visual Artists Alliance, Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts and Draft Help.
Machiavelli Nailed It!
The 16th Century writer Niccolo Machiavelli can shed light on the actions of the newest president, especially Chapter 19, entitled, "That One Should Avoid Being Despised And Hated."
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Love and Power: Standing for Cultural Democracy
U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Chief Policy Wonk Arlene Goldbard's remarks at the CULTURE/SHIFT 2016 plenary launching "Standing for Cultural Democracy: The USDAC's Policy and Action Platform."
Sunday, July 31, 2016(22 comments)
Are You Adding to The Empathy Deficit?
Whatever else is going on, voting for Hillary is a simple act of empathy for those who would bear the brunt of a Trump regime. Just do it. How you feel about it is your problem.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Serve and Protect Who? A Thought Experiment
Those who've benefited from this system at the expense of Black people and others targeted by the police have a simple choice right now. Separate yourself from white supremacy word and deed. Or wait and see how well it protects you when the violence festering at every level of American society--from street-level policing to Donald Trump's inflammatory rhetoric--explodes.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Donald Trump didn't invent the vicious racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and triumphalist worship of white supremacy that his statements have unleashed. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, "In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible." Trump is guilty, and should be made accountable for, his spewings and their impact. And we are responsible to ensure that is done.
Thursday, June 16, 2016(2 comments)
Scapegoats Coming Home to Roost
In the aftermath of Orlando, it's clearer than ever: Singling out one facet of identity to blame for whatever the scapegoater detests is always vicious, untrue, and damaging.
Monday, May 23, 2016(1 comments)
The Game of Ones
"The Game of Ones." The Guggenheim's is just one example. Exalting individuals at the expense of communities, neglecting the long history of collective creation, cultural resistance and restoration, self-knowledge and communal knowledge to which so many community artists have dedicated their lives.
Monday, May 16, 2016
On Burning Out, Burning In
There's been a big discussion about "burnout" among activists lately, meaning many different things: physical maladies of overwork; depression, a sense of futility--or at least a pervading doubt that one's efforts matter. Exhaustion, emotional and intellectual. There's a wise woman in my head who likes to disrupt the magic thinking festival that goes on there. Advice to myself
Monday, May 2, 2016(1 comments)
Let Them Talk: The Piano Prince
If I asked you to name a prodigiously talented, extravagantly flamboyant, African American, sexually fluid musician with a body like an exclamation point and a taste for the rococo whose premature death left the world a little grayer, of course you'd say "Prince," and you'd be right. Or half-right. Then there's James Booker.
Friday, April 8, 2016(1 comments)
You're Drafted: What Now?
Nothing characterizes the difference between the sixties and our era as much as the Vietnam-era draft, making political decisions intensely personal. The Boys Who Said NO! a film-in-progress and why it matters.
On Race, Religion, and Human Complexity
Bernie Sanders gaffe in the debate on Sunday reminds us that it is incumbent on us to do justice to the truth in all its complexity and contradiction. No one can be fairly summed up by the big clumpy identity categories we've come to rely on.
Tell Your Story Now!
Discussion easily turns into argument and friends into foes. But when we share actual stories instead of opinions, things change. Share your story as part of the People's State of the Union 2016.
World So Undivided: John Trudell
An homage to the late John Trudell, knew how to hold the incredible gift of being alive and the surrendering of our power to heal that breaks the world's heart every day.
Clay Feet Abounding: The Presumption of Progressive Virtue
On the FitzGibbon scandal: The first step to addressing abuses of power is always the same: let go of the illusion that people whose politics you find virtuous are going to be more ethical, compassionate, or just in their behavior than people whose politics you find objectionable. People are people, full stop.
USDAC Statement on Syrian Refugee Crisis
U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Statement on Syrian Refugee Crisis. Opposing fear & isolation, sending love, creativity & compassion to those needing refuge.
Imitating Realness: Art and Authenticity
It's time to be fed up with a wildly misguided and rapidly emergent impulse in art and commerce, mounting an imitation of realness in which both art and authenticity are left lying on the studio floor. Why "canned parrot meat" is the last straw.
Monday, May 25, 2015
Imaginings Roll Out!
From Brooklyn to Chicago, from Xtigone to Black Lives Matter, people are gathering to dream out loud: what is the vibrant, sustainable, resilient future we want to inhabit? How do we get there?
Field Office Annals, Part One: Filling A Need
The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the nation's first people-powered department, is opening Field Offices. Founders of the first two, in Lawrence, KS, and Washington, DC, have a lot to say about why they are needed.
Class Suicide and Radical Empathy
So many political and spiritual leaders performed the act of class suicide, dying to the privileged class of their birth--often by taking a step with no return--and thus sacrificing privilege and power in favor of full identification with the oppressed. In telling Moses' story, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper illuminates what for is the theme of every seder, radical empathy.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Passing the (Star)bucks
Starbucks' attempt to raise the question of race and racism was flawed, to be sure. It was ridiculed on every satire show and in nearly every blog and column. The result? Mission accomplished: you won't be talking about race relations with your barista anytime soon.
But whose mission?
I think the right won on this one, even if the biggest battle was fought on the left.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Three Words for Love: Selma, Aloha, Ahava
The Selma March Jubilee, the Japanese American activists who joined the march, and Jewish civil rights workers killed a year earlier all remind us that a society of justice and love depends on those who step forward despite danger.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015(1 comments)
A Story of My Heart
Thousands of people took part in the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture's People's State of the Union civic ritual in January. What can we learn about the state of our union from the more than 500 stories they posted online?
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
TV Family Values
TV's idea of family may be bleached, starched, and pumped up on cheeroids, but sometimes it can even save a life.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Another Kind of Spiritual Practice
We may think of spiritual practice as something apart from ordinary life, but something as prosaic as facilitating a meeting can be a form of spiritual practice. Consider the People's State of the Union.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
I Just Don't Know
We persist in making predictions, even though we're terrible at it: almost always, we're just extending our beliefs into the future. The aftermath of terrorist incidents shows that we aren't much better at analysis: it merely shifts the possibility of error from future to present.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014(2 comments)
The Year of Whiplash
This has been a year of whiplash, with activism at a height I haven't observed since the sixties, but also a year that requires a powerful act of will not to be dispirited by the hardening of the hearts of entrenched power. Speaking to us from 1985, James Baldwin sheds light.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
"Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself," wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel. In recent Grand Jury actions, we see how true that is. All of us are responsible to change it.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Post-Election Letter to A Friend
Last night, a friend wrote me on Facebook, "how can the dreams in your recent books come true after the midterm results?" I counseled him to avoid "grasshopper vision."
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Happy Blog-iversary (and A Half) to Me
I've been publishing my blog for ten years plus, but I've just copped to being an optimist. With my history, how is that possible? Because I'm all about change, and unless you believe it can come, what's the point? Check out my latest changemaking role, Chief Policy Wonk of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture!
Friday, October 17, 2014
Ferguson: Generations and Expectations
In Ferguson, we are seeing a moment of great beauty and meaning, in which those who desire justice and love rise to summon it forth. Some indict an older generation for failing to produce a plan, but really what is needed are guiding principles that value creativity in the service of freedom, equity, and justice.
Thursday, August 28, 2014(1 comments)
Call to Creative Action
The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture has issued the USDAC Call: Creativity for Justice and Equity, calling all artists and creative activists to join in the movement to demilitarize the police and bring justice to victims of publicly funded racism. Endorsers include Gloria Steinem, Peter Coyote, Makani Themba, and dozens of others.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Women, human rights, and brains. Do women need to earn equal rights by being better? Are male and female brains different? Why do we waste time on arguments that don't change anything?
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
We, Thee & Me
Feminists and antifeminists. Is it better to make a deal with the king that benefits your own group, or pursue justice for all? Is recent antifeminist social media an expression of rights hard-won, or of ignorance?
Belonging, Purpose, Pleasure
We're in the middle of a shift from Datastan to the Republic of Stories: from the place where everything that counts can be counted to a much richer world. What are the words that can hold this message? They may be belonging, purpose, and pleasure.
Monday, July 7, 2014(21 comments)
On Safety and Umbrage
The call for "trigger warnings" threatens to turn us unto a "culture of umbrage." If we give into that demand, we will surely meet an anorexic end, starved of humor, challenge, and the learning they enable.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014(2 comments)
Plutocrats and Plebeians
More people who know are warning plutocrats that an uprising is on the horizon if they don't change their ways. Nick Hanauer gets it right, but he still needs to learn plebeian math.
Friday, June 27, 2014(1 comments)
Pro Bono Blues
Is it exploitation when well-funded organizations ask artists to volunteer? There's a lack of awareness of ethical challenges when haves ask the have-nots to pony up.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Here We Go Again: Cultural Equity in San Francisco
Those who get the biggest share of funding--them that's got, as Billie Holiday put it--pay lip-service to fairness for those who get crumbs--them that's not. But lip-service is generally the only currency they are willing to shell out. This is playing out in San Francisco right now.
Friday, June 20, 2014(1 comments)
Go Come Back: Culture Is A Bridge and a Fortress
Did you ever have something that generated feelings of pride and shame simultaneously, depending on your viewpoint? In Hawaii, the use of Pidgin is contested in schools, and Pidgin activists are responding.
Monday, June 2, 2014(1 comments)
Running Nature's Numbers
The Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek, profiled in The New Yorker, thinks he's questioning conservation orthodoxies. But isn't it time to question his own blindspots?
Tuesday, May 27, 2014(3 comments)
Have Skin in The Game Or Don't Talk About Not Doing What You Love
Recent columns by Miya Tokumitsu and Gordon Marino have condemned the advice to "do what you love" in favor of a notion of duty they feel free to prescribe for others without swallowing themselves. Intellectuals without "skin in the game" who claim to be opposing oppression are actually abetting it.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Racism Stunts Your Growth
A scientific study confirms what we already know from lived experience: holding racist attitudes shrinks your creative capacity.
Monday, May 5, 2014(1 comments)
On Being A Sore Winner
The perfect is the enemy of the good: Donald Sterling and the NBA, Obama and the Pipeline. Every once in a while, stop to celebrate small victories.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014(2 comments)
Climate Change & The Human Quandary
Activists feel the climate crisis is like a runaway train, and they can't rouse their companions to seize the throttle. What are the resistances and how to overcome them? Progressive Jews try to find out.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
"Realism" and Its Discontents
"Realism" is the self-ratifying notion broadcast by every power elite: the message that the existing order of things is so firmly entrenched, so well-funded, and so effectively guarded that it is pointless to resist. When someone says, "be realistic," beware!
Monday, March 31, 2014(8 comments)
Deceleration & Sustainability
"Sustainability demands deceleration." Even Nixon supported a basic income grant. How it would help artists and stem overproduction.
To The Streets: Annals of The Culture of Politics, Part 1
The 2012 election campaign is in full swing, beginning, once again, to stage the vast (and vastly repetitive) drama that periodically mesmerizes the body politic. The current culture of politics doesn't offer what we need instead: the basic citizenship education and fundamental self-exploration needed to achieve an informed, engaged, and self-aware electorate.