Now is Not the Time for Creators to Cancel Their Work: Why Art is Essential to Social Justice

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Now is Not the Time for Creators to Cancel Their Work: Why Art is Essential to Social Justice

The delay of artistic expression buys into the notion that everything will go back to “normal” — which is not what we want.

Way back in March 2020, I was stoked to realize that PVRIS, one of my favorite rock bands, would be releasing their third full-length album on May 1st.

As the coronavirus turned into a global pandemic, May 1st came and went with an announcement that Use Me’s release would be delayed until July 10th. I was disappointed, but I understood that the music industry, like so many others, was being disrupted by the unforeseen. Artists, musicians, and music producers are people like the rest of us, and it takes time to adjust to a new way of life, one of social distancing and Zoom calls and being imprisoned in your own house.

I was looking forward to downloading the new album later this week, but Google News informed me this morning that the band had postponed the release again, this time until August 28th.

Lynn Gunn, the band’s founder and frontwoman, released a statement saying:

Self-promotion can wait for now and I want to make room and hold space for the conversation and message of the Black Lives Matter movement to continue.

"Use Me" (album cover)
“Use Me” (album cover)

While I respect Gunn and her decision, I think it’s misguided for artists and creators to suspend their work to “make space” for social and political movements no matter how necessary. This delay of artistic expression buys into the notion that the current impulse toward social and racial justice (amidst a still-raging pandemic, nonetheless) will soon be over and everything will go back to “normal.” And, by “normal,” I mean the way things were — the awful way they have been for the past several decades.

A couple months of protests, cancellations, and public, politically-correct proclamations of support will not bring about the long-term, institutional and systemic reforms our world needs to see. We don’t need things to go back to the way they were; we need to move forward to things that are new and better. And history has shown that artists are always an important part of change.

Thus, it’s important now more than ever that artists create and continue to create. Good artists are the guardians and guiding lights of the collective human soul. Writers and singers, poets and musicians, painters and sculptors capture and express the ineffables of our nature. The best creators inspire on a spiritual and superconscious level. They tell the story of people struggling and surviving and striving to make their world a better place.

And we need our storytellers in this moment and the moments beyond. The legendary author and poet Madeleine L’Engle said:

We turn to stories and pictures and music because they show us who and what and why we are, and what our relationship is to life and death, what is essential, and what, despite the arbitrariness of falling beams, will not burn.

She also said:

Story makes us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith — faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.

Crystal Award-winning artist and sculptor Olafur Eliasson said:

One of the major responsibilities of artists…is to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds but also to feel it emotionally and physically. By doing this, art can mitigate the numbing effect created by the glut of information we are faced with today, and motivate people to turn thinking into doing.

If you are in the business of making good art, now is not the time to stop. The verve of our present moment depends on it.