Artist and activist Melanie Oliva woke up overwhelmed with sadness, frustration, and helplessness the morning of November 9, 2016. Even her well-curated Facebook feed couldn’t alter the new, bitter reality that Donald Trump had been elected president. She'd hoped that economic, environmental, and social justice would be at the forefront of the incoming administration. But that, she said, turned out to be an illusion.
“Even though I was originally a Bernie supporter,” Oliva says, “I was almost certain Hillary would win and things would rapidly improve for women and the disenfranchised. Now I know that I was living in a bubble.”
Now that that bubble has burst, Oliva has dragged her ass out of bed and is taking action to confront Trumpism head-on. With the help of a few friends, Oliva founded the Artful Activist.
The Artful Activist is a collective of more than 50 contributors — visual artists, writers, gallerists, and musicians — from across the nation, all committed to promoting “badass artists, grassroots activists, and the galleries who can help them save the world.” The collective includes Miami-based artists JohnBob Carlos, Wendy Doscher-Smith, Alex Salcedo, Mary Benton, Maria Font, Virginia Erdie, Debbi Becker, Houston Cypress, Colleen Kelley, and Nicholas Nehaniv.
“I feel like we have nothing and everything to lose all at the same time,” Oliva says.
There is a silver lining to Election 2016, Oliva points out: inspiration. She and her fellow artist activists have dreamed up new, creative ways to resist Trump and foster substantive change.
“Since the election, I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been able to produce any new artwork... However, I’ve been able to funnel that nervous energy into creating something that I feel is needed at the moment: a collective that can facilitate emotion-inducing awareness and activism at the local levels. The Artful Activist has the potential to turn more creative thinkers into powerful activists even if I’m not creating artwork,” she says.
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“I keep thinking about the world my niece and nephew will inherit, and I want them to at least have the same quality of life I had growing up. I want them to experience a world filled with more love than hate. I want them to have enough resources and to not be climate refugees.
"The other thing is that I know everything in this world is the result of a mindset,” she says. “If we found a way to change every person’s mind on the planet, even for just one day, think about what we could do.”
The Artful Activist has an open call for artists and events with the intent to create positive change, and invites dialogue with gallerists and collectors. Follow the group on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.