Social Stance Saturday: How Art and History Give a Voice to the Voiceless (by Rebekah Rolland)
Rebekah Rolland is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and musician. Member of the Tucson based band As We Run (formerly Run Boy Run) and now a solo act, she has also been selected as an artist-in-residence for the National Park Service Centennial, where she spent several weeks at Homestead National Monument working on her debut record, Seed & Silo. Her album is out now, and her experiences have inspired her to take a stance for Social Stance Saturday. Read it below:
It's been one big burning cauldron of budget cuts over the last several months. Arizona artists were fired up recently upon learning that the legislature was considering major cuts to funding toward the Arizona Commission for the Arts. Within a few weeks of this announcement, the federal government moved to reduce Bears Ears National Monument acreage by 85%, sparking immediate and widespread controversy.
The timing of these announcements was really significant for me as an artist-in-residence for the National Parks Service Centennial. At the time, I was releasing an album of original tunes that I had written during my residency at Homestead National Monument.
Events like these force us to really think about why these places and these organizations are important and, beyond that, necessary to the social and cultural fabric of this country. Why continue to fund theater, choir, and orchestra programs in schools and communities? Why continue to put millions of taxpayer dollars towards maintaining these parks and museums? Do we really need these things?
I find myself asking a similar set of questions in regard to my own work. Is it ultimately beneficial? Is it productive? Is it helping or impacting my community in any significant way?
A couple of years ago, I heard the speech that Viola Davis gave for her Oscar win and it has resonated with me since. She talked about why she is an artist and why she views the role of art in society as vital. She said, "...there is one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard...I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories—the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost...celebrate what it means to live a life.” In other words, keep these stories alive. Keep them burning bright in our collective consciousness.
We need our parks and the arts for this reason. Both function to preserve and celebrate and honor the lives and efforts of those who have come before us and those who surround us; both force us to look critically at our past and present, and to reflect on the ways in which we might learn from them and continue to strive for better; and both serve as an enduring voice for the voiceless.
I am encouraged by the fact that, historically, artists have thrived under fire. And if works like Hamilton are any indication, the artists of today are taking up the torch. "The plan is to fan this spark into a flame."
Click here to be directed to one of the many ways you can support Bears Ears National Monument.
Click here to read the Phoenix New Times' article, "Here's Why the Next Arizona Budget Could Devastate the Arts".
Rebekah Rolland's brand new album, Seed & Silo, beautifully explores and compliments these themes, so listen to it now on Spotify. Also, be sure to follow Rebekah on Facebook and Twitter!