Become a Founding Co-Conspirator; Get Your Artistic License!

A sample Artistic License. Tape or draw your face in yours!

A sample Artistic License. Tape or draw your face in yours!

The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is a national action network mobilizing creativity in the service of social justice. Launching this people-powered department has been a labor of love—a grassroots endeavor with an estimated 30,000 volunteer hours contributed so far. Our team has been working to raise grant funds and just learned that a foundation is ready to match new contributions dollar-for-dollar. So, we’re asking Citizen Artists who believe in our work to step up as a Founding Co-Conspirators, with an Artistic License to prove it!  

Some background: More than five years ago, while working with Colombia’s Ministry of Culture, Adam Horowitz (USDAC Chief Instigator) commissioned a few hundred posters from a printmaker in Bogotá for an imagined entity known as the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. What began as an imported poetic gesture became a set of big, burning questions for the intergenerational, intercultural, multi-disciplinary team we've formed here in the States: How might we shift art and culture from the margins to the center of civil society, given their true value and support as catalysts for social transformation? What would it look like to barnraise a people-powered department as both a playful work of collaborative art and as a serious vehicle for community-building, field-building, and movement-building? How might we perform the work of a U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, thereby generating momentum for programs and policies that help shift ours from a society of consumers to a society of creators?

We officially launched the USDAC with a press conference in October, 2013. Since then, we’ve hosted hundreds of participatory, arts-infused community events in more than 40 states, engaging more than 10,000 people of every age and background in envisioning and enacting a society rooted in empathy, equity, and social imagination. From the People’s State of the Union, to #DareToImagine, to the Imaginings led by Cultural Agents to spark ongoing local organizing, we’ve seen how hungry folks are to bring their full creative selves to building a more just world. (You can read all about what we’ve been up to and where we’re headed in our recent report, “An Act of Collective Imagination: The USDAC’s First Two Years of Action Research,” meet our National Cabinet, or explore our videos to see the USDAC in action.)

Given what’s happened in just two years since our public launch, it's evident we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with large-scale creative and cultural organizing. We’ve held off from asking friends and family for financial support until we were certain that this project had legs. It’s now abundantly clear that it does. In fact, it feels like it could sprout some wings….

In order to sustain the momentum and to build the infrastructure that can bring our efforts to the next level we need support, and so we’re inviting you today to make a tax-deductible investment in creative people-power. The first 250 folks who sign up to give at least $5/month (or make a one-time donation of $75 or more) will be listed as Founding Co-Conspirators and issued a limited edition Artistic License! You can donate easily and securely here. (If you’d prefer to send a check there are details posted for how to do that.) A contribution at any level is deeply appreciated and will be matched dollar for dollar.

To borrow a phrase from a Billie Holiday song, “the impossible will take a little while.” But we’re committed to the long game, knowing that the cultural shift we seek is going to take time, audacity, and some radically creative organizing. As a people-powered department, growing a base of supporters is critical to our success. This is an invitation to be among the first...

The USDAC is an act of collective imagination, and it's through your participation that it has come into being. Thank you for being a part of this journey. We look forward to all that we will create together.