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Why Artists are the Future Leaders

As the founder of the “I AM” Series, I know the power of art with every cell in my body. Art has allowed me to create healing, connection and do good for my community. It was music that gave me voice when I didn’t have any. Without it, I could have taken my own life. (Read “I find myself in music & Music Found Me” that I wrote for the Sounshop). And now, I have 2 goals, to put an end to this epidemic of “struggling artists” and to offer a creative art education platform for the Sustainability development goals.

Most things I “studied” as a student back in Japan, I don’t remember. Because true education and active learning would require curiosity. Even sensitive topics can be opened up when it’s based around arts. If someone ask you “let’s talk about Racism, Genocides, Mass incarceration, Rapes, War…” you might say no, or say yes reluctantly. But if someone says “Let’s watch this documentary. Read this book. Go to this Art show”. Wouldn’t you be more likely to say Yes? That applies to not only the topics but for demographics as well. It opens up so much potential for those who could be impacted.

When “I AM” Series was asked to facilitate a workshop about Mass Incarceration at NYU, that was one of the key elements of our success. As a Japanese Immigrant Woman, if I say “I’m hosting a workshop for mass incarceration”, that wouldn’t work, absolutely not. I wanted to focus on the art and artists, their journey and the impact they are making. And THAT opened up more possibility for non Black & Brown populations. Art humanized the subject. Art required people to pay attention & be open. THAT’s the power of art that we create. That’s when true education could start.

Before I dive in any farther, let us talk about this first. What does “Struggling Artist” mean?

That means being broke and living paycheck to paycheck.
That means choosing day jobs over art just to survive at times.
That means constantly hustling and grinding.
That means hoping that the next gig would get out of the massive debt.
That means that trying the best to make it.
That means dealing with anxiety & depression.
That means constantly hearing no from others.
That means not being able to afford a therapist.
That means constant comparison and feeling of not good enough.
That means constantly battling with ourselves.
That means that creating art is a safe space.
That means the myth of “If you’re not struggling, you’re not making a good art”.

These are circumstances struggling artist are in. But what does it really mean to be an artist? Artists are teachers, leaders, messengers, healers and magicians. That’s who we are. We are all artists. What type of art do you do? When people ask me that question, that makes me hesitant. Because it is an experience & not tangible.

Falling in love with people, that is my superpower. I fall in love with people who create art to make a difference. We are teachers, messengers & healers. We are leaders.

We are driven and self starter.
We understand the choices in life and not to take anything for granted.
We are great with multi-tasking.
We have the ability to dream big.
We know to invest in ourselves.
We are hopeful and risk takers.
We have deep connections to our feelings and those around us.
We are resilient and hard working.
We are compassionate & empathetic.
We are resourceful.
We are aware of our thoughts & conditions that we are in.
We know what matters to us.
We have ability and tools for self expression.

So, when the true nature of artists are fully embraced and their fundamental physiological needs (according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) are truly met, can you imagine what this world would look like? Can you see the possibilities of what could happen? All these “struggling artists” would become the leaders. Look at the impact of all “celebrities” and “Influencers” have made already.

They start movement. They speak loud for their cause and what matters to them. They send out powerful messages for people would speak. And the best part is that we understand what’s possible. #MeTOO movement, #Blacklivesmatter, all these movements started because people had enough. We had enough. And we don’t want more people to go through what we went through. It’s just way too much. We understand the pain so much and we cannot NOT do it. We must create healing and change for the society. That’s the origin of the word passion, the PAIN. When the pain turns to a passion, there’s no other option. Just as I do. I have no option to fail.

When you hear the story that’s so similar to yours, wouldn’t that feel like you’re not alone and feel seen?
When you see an abstract art piece, doesn’t it make you curious?
When someone shares a story, wouldn’t you like to know more?
When you watch a documentary that really disrupt your mind, wouldn’t you want to talk to other people? Or wouldn’t you wanna be a better person?
When you cook and eat with people, wouldn’t that create deeper connection?
When you sing with someone, wouldn’t that harmony make you feel warm?
When you go to the concerts, doesn’t that make you feel like you are a part of something bigger than you?

“I want people to know that they are not alone”. “I don’t want people to go through the mistakes and pains that I went through.” “I just want to inspire people”. “I wish somebody would have told me that before. That’s why I do this”. I hear it all the time. The stories are fascinating. These stories are human stories that touches people’s heart. These creation comes from love. We understand the pain. We understand the struggle. We genuinely want to tell the story and say, “Hey, you are not the only one in this. I got you. You don’t have to do this by yourself”.

When people connect with art and heart, magic happens. BEA announced that Arts & Culture represent 4.3% of GDP or $800 Billion of economic activities. According to Americans for the Arts’s research, 68% of Americans believe the arts industry is good for the economy and supports jobs. 4 in 5 Americans believe that the arts are a positive experience in a troubled world. 68% of Americans agree that the arts improve healing and the healthcare experience. And get this. 9 in 10 Americans agree the arts are part of a well-rounded education.

Black Enterprise recently had an article about Will Smith investing in app for “Financial literacy for kids”. If he wasn’t the part of this app, how many people would have actually paid attention? If Ava DuVarney didn’t make “When They See Us”, did as many people as now pay attention again? If Busy Phillips didn’t start speaking up about her abortion experience, would people have spoken up? How many people ever watched a documentary about environmental crisis becuase Leonardo DiCaprio produced “The 11th Hour”? They are the conversation starters.

So what are we waiting for? It is time to start supporting local artists and educating artists with entrepreneurship. If you’re an artist, connect with fellow artists. Find a community and people who you can count on and have same visions. This needs to expand rapidly. No Poverty, No Hunger, Good health & well-beings, Quality Education, Women’s empowerment… We cannot wait for all these changes to start happening until all “struggling artists” become “Thriving artists”.

We can start NOW. I’m not waiting for the change to happen and that’s why “I AM” Series exists. As much as society needs to change, we have to change ourselves. We, the artists, need to start embracing our power as an artist. Because we are leaders, educators and healers. Art is to heal, connect and do good for the world.

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