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Expect to be delighted and outraged by our incisive and sprawling coverage of culture and arts.

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    As a kid growing up in the ‘90s, all I wanted was to be a rockstar, have my music played on the radio, and make killer music videos for MTV.

    That’s what the music industry promised to provide the lucky artists and bands who got signed. My how things have changed.

    If you’re an artist or band trying to get your music out to the world (or even make a living) then you need to play by the new rules.

    Gone are the old days of the music industry where you would hope to get signed to a label and then become a star (i.e. everything would be done for you).

    Today you need to view yourself (and your music) through the lens of three very important truths. I call them the new rules of the music industry, and those who play by them will succeed.

    Rule #1 - You Are A Brand

    No longer are you simply a musician or artist. You are a brand. Knowing this distinction is critical to gaining traction and growing your fanbase.

    The word “brand” can come with a negative connotation for all the creatives and artists reading this but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Being a brand as an artist simply means that you need to learn the art of promotion and entrepreneurship. You basically have to become a business person.

    Because music is still a business. Always has been. Always will be.

    It’s just that in the “old days” the business was handled for you by other people. Namely your label and their team.

    Someone still has to promote your music - these days that someone is you!

    Rule #2 - You Are A Content Creator

    The key to good promotion is to remember that we live in an age of content consumption.

    Whether it’s binge watching on Netflix or reading blog after blog, people these days want to consume content and they want lots of it.

    Your job as an artist is to give your fans a steady diet of content related to you and your brand.

    What could this content be?

    For starters, your music. This is the obvious one. Share your latest single or music video. Great.

    But there is so much more you can do.

    Why not share videos of you in the songwriting process? Or in the studio recording your latest album? Or snap some footage from your phone on stage?

    Do live Q&As with your fans. Talk about what you do for fun OTHER than music.

    Whatever it is, share something about you, your music, and your life. Your fans will love it and appreciate it.

    And here’s the key - to stay relevant in today’s world you must stay top of mind. You do this by creating regular bits of content - rather than only releasing an album or EP once a year or every other year.

    View yourself as a content creator and not just a musician and you’ll be in good shape.

    Rule #3 - Don’t Try To Be Perfect

    When I was growing up, all the bands I loved had perfect everything. Perfect-sounding albums, perfect-looking music videos, and perfect writeups in magazines.

    They were always presented as polished and untouchable.

    The problem with perfect though is that it holds many artists back from simply finishing new music or sharing a piece of content. This is a big no-no.

    Granted we don’t want to share crap - not at all. We simply want to be authentic and real, sharing our best stuff as best as we can.

    There’s a point at which your recordings as an artist will only be but so good. They won’t be perfect. Release them anyway and move on to the next project.

    Ironically this is how you improve as an artist!

    The age of glossy perfection is coming to an end for most artists. My generation (the millennials) prefer the raw, authentic you - so give it to them!

    Will You Play By The Rules?

    I still love the idea of becoming a rockstar and being able to focus purely on the art and craft of my music while other people do all the hard work of promoting me and growing my fan base.

    Who doesn’t?

    But the old rules don’t apply anymore. It’s a brave new world and those who play be these new rules will be the ones who build longevity and be rewarded with the chance to continue to make the music they love

    Are you an artist or musician looking to make your music sound as good as the stuff you hear on the radio? Check out all the free resources here to take the quality of your recordings up a few notches!

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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  • 03/18/17--14:38: What The NEA Means To Me

  • It is strange to be an American watching America from afar right now. I live in England, near the village of St. Albans, which has been continuously inhabited since Roman times. I often wonder what it must have been like to be a Roman living in Britain around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. News would arrive over weeks and months that illiterate Vandals had again plundered Rome, and burned its great libraries to the ground. Books, after all, were useless to them as compared with weapons and gold.

    News that the current U.S. administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and its sister organisations arrived in my social media feed at the speed of light, and hit me straight in the gut.

    In 2003 I was living in South Central Los Angeles, writing poetry, attending seminary, and surfing. All of these were attempts to discover what life is about. Through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, my poetry began to get better, though my surfing never did. Then something happened that changed my understanding of why poetry matters. I entered and won a prize called Poetry in the Windows, sponsored by the Arroyo Arts Collective.

    As part of the prize, poems were translated into one of the many languages spoken in the diverse Highland Park area of East Los Angeles. Then, with the permission of the shop owners, they were displayed in the storefront windows along the main street. A special day was arranged where groups were led from storefront to storefront to hear us poets read our winning poems aloud.

    I don’t recall what I did with the small prize cheque; I probably spent it on In ‘N’ Out burgers and gas for my truck. But I do still recall the beaming face of the Armenian shopkeep listening to a young Armenian poet read out the poem hanging in pride of place in his store window, in his native tongue. To this day, I have never been more proud of one of my poem’s placements than outside the Rub-A-Dub Laundry on Figueroa Street. This is because on this day, we were not natives or immigrants, poets or shopkeepers. We were one people united by a love of words.

    That organisation, and that prize ― the first poetry prize I ever won ― was supported by the NEA. It gave me a much-needed sense of hope and encouragement early in my vocation as a poet. It mattered more than I can say.

    According to the Academy of American Poets, the NEA supports more than 3,000 writers each year with small fellowships that afford them the time to write. They also support critical programs for teens like Poetry Out Loud, where more than 300,000 teens memorise and recite poems in an inspiring annual competition.

    If you feel, like I do, that organisations like NEA represent a vital part of a healthy society, I encourage you to contact your representative and make your thoughts known. PEN America has put together a useful web page with more information.

    Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the richness and diversity of America’s cultural heritage. The NEA has been protecting that heritage, and encouraging new voices ― like mine ― to join in the conversation since its founding in 1965. I can’t imagine America without it.

    Correction: this article originally cited 1857 as the date the National Endowment for the Arts was founded; in fact the National Education Association was founded on this date. The correct founding date for the National Endowment for the Arts has been updated.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    If you want to see a fantastic play with an outstanding cast, go see Arthur Miller’s The Price at the American Airlines Theatre. You will experience an impeccable night of poignantly told storytelling that takes place in the family attic of a once great Brownstone home which is about to be demolished, however not before the skeletons expose their brittle bones to the light.

    Two brothers come to terms with their past choices and the price of what it cost them in their lives. Victor Franz is a police officer, who though brilliant, felt that he had a responsibility to keep his father fed after the Great Depression rather than finish his science degree in college, while his brother Walter went to medical school and became a rich doctor. They have not spoken in 28 years and suddenly they’re reunited since the contents of their childhood home are about to be dissolved. Prophetic Gregory Solomon, an 89 year old furniture dealer who hasn’t been active in business in years arrives at the once lavish Franz home to see the haul and decides he will buy everything and make a comeback.

    This great work directed by Terry Kinney speaks to the family dynamics made of Greek Tragedies. Danny DeVito steals it all in his first Broadway performance. He is totally and completely natural, thus up to the task of authenticating the life of the extraordinary old European Jewish hondler with wisdom, humor and insight into a person who it seems, has not lived one life, but many. DeVito is pure genius channeling Solomon, a fictional character with non-fictional origins, a dinosaur of a time that took some clever and rigorous thinking to live.

    Mark Ruffalo invariably tugs at our hearts; however I found him far too ordinary and verbally bumble-some to believe he grew up with mammon of once impressive proportions and he actively fenced for sport. Though Victor Franz is a cop, he nonetheless came from a home of wealth with an exceptional education and an IQ to match. He plays his part like a worn out working man completely, with little to no nuances to persuade the audience otherwise.

    His wife Esther Franz, Jessica Hecht, does a superb job as his loyal, loving, but often frustrated spouse, who yearns for a more comfortable life above her husband’s pay grade.

    Silk suited Tony Shaloub is the absolute epitome of affluence coupled with neurosis. He is expansive and exciting to watch as the story of Walter unfolds and he tries to persuade his brother that he didn’t quite get his father, revealing the truth of a selfish and secretive patriarch. Where one brother is cynical, the other is romantic and true, but each pays a price for their choices.

    I never once noticed that the play was two and a half hours long with a 15 min intermission. I was completely absorbed in the drama. I will never forget DeVito’s performance and everyone who sees this play undoubtedly will feel the same way. I have always thought I would have loved to be in the theater when Lee J. Cobb played Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, but I wasn’t alive then, thank- goodness I am for Danny DeVito. I caught a glimpse of greatness.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    The “America First Budget” proposes to eliminate programs like the National Endowments for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, justifies these cuts by explaining that this kind of programming “really isn’t helping anybody.”

    You are wrong, Mr. Mulvaney.

    Let me list the ways in which this kind of programming has helped me:

    As a gay kid in the 1960s who was bullied and did not fit in, I found my hero in none other than Kermit the Frog. Kermit was part of my life because of PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service. When I felt lonely and different, Kermit sang this on Sesame Street:

    It’s not easy being green.… / But green’s the color of Spring / And green can be cool and friendly-like / And green can be big like the ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree / When green is all there is to be / It could make you wonder why, but why wonder? / Why Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful! / And I think it’s what I want to be.

    That song helped build my self-esteem. Without its message, perhaps I would not have the strength I have today to be authentically myself, to be proud and productive. I continue to be inspired by this message; to this day, I have a framed version of the lyrics of this song hanging in my office as a reminder that self-acceptance and self-love are keys to success.

    Oh, and did I mention that Sesame Street also taught me my ABCs? I was 4 years old when Sesame Street first aired. I was one of its first target audience members. That show taught me to read. As a result, I excelled at school from an early age. Sesame Street provided me with a strong foundation on which to build my education.

    This America First Budget devalues the arts and after-school programming. For me, it was the after-school drama club that helped me survive high school. The drama club provided me with a safe space, a home, friends, a family. This is where my differences were celebrated, where my creativity flourished. Mr. Mulvaney might believe that singing and dancing in the chorus of Damn Yankees does not help anyone, but I am living proof that doing just that saved me.

    It is no coincidence that there are many gay people in the arts. As kids, we gravitate to places like drama clubs and ballet classes because these are prejudice-free zones. Here we are loved, we are valued, and we are embraced.

    Today, I am a theater professor and stage director. What saves me now is going into rehearsal, collaborating with other artists. Connecting. I do not find truth in Sean Spicer’s spinning or Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts. I find truth in a Lynn Nottage play. Spending hours delving into plays like Nottage’s Ruined or By the Way, Meet Vera Stark allows me to understand the world more fully than anything else could.

    The arts provide truth. The arts provide guides through complex issues.

    Mr. Mulvaney states that he cannot justify these programs “to the folks who are paying the taxes.” He says, “I can’t go to the auto worker in Ohio and say: Please give me some of your money so that I can do this program over here someplace else that really isn’t helping anybody.” He says he cannot justify the programs to a coal miner in West Virginia or to a single mom in Detroit either.

    Has anyone asked these auto workers/coal miners/moms if the arts are part of their lives? It is insulting to assume that these folks do not need theater or music or dance. The auto worker may find joy in acting in a community theater play. The coal miner may find solace in attending the ballet. The mom may be thankful that her child has found a safe space after school in the drama club.

    I have not even mentioned that the arts (and the programs Mr. Mulvaney wants to cut) provide jobs to many people in this country. How can Mr. Mulvaney justify cutting American jobs in the arts as part of the America First Budget?

    Mr. Mulvaney says that “these programs that we’ve targeted … can’t justify their existence.” Really? These programs provide purpose, insight, community, unity, family. They provide the reason for some Americans to get up in the morning and make it through another day.

    So, please, Mr. Mulvaney, do not tell us that arts’ programming is expendable and indefensible. If we are to truly put America First, then the arts must not come last.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    In 2011, I made a film called Zero Silence. It was a documentary film about young people in the Middle East who have grown angry over the authoritarian regimes they live in and who are using the Internet to bring about change in their societies where free speech is controlled or censored. They are part of a new generation that uses the Internet to get the free word out and to organize, mobilize, collaborate and fight injustice.

    Among other topics, the production will explore the impact of the Internet and non-traditional media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and whistle-blowing sites on the Arab world and beyond and to what extent these digital media tools can spur society change.

    During that time, I met Elissa. A Jazz singer from Lebanon who talked about the risk of being an artist there. This is her story...

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    For Allure, by Macaela Mackenzie.

    It’s not often the the science behind beauty products is revealed. Enter The Scientific Mom, who put her lipstick under a microscope to take an in-depth look at what was really going on. We talk all day long about the beauty benefits of innovations in the lab—from reformulated shampoos for your scalp, to Technicolor blonde techniques, to new school face-lifts, and facial oils that spent five years in the lab before hitting shelves—but rarely do we get to see it in action.

    Amy Oyler, a science teacher in Arizona and the blogger behind The Scientific Mom, put some of her favorite lipsticks on slides for an at-home experiment with her daughter to see the difference between gloss, sparkle silky, and matte formulas. The resulting looks are even prettier than what the lipsticks look like IRL—under the microscope, crystals and pretty pigments come to life in a kaleidoscope of colors. "As with many of the explorations in science that my daughter and I embark on, this became quite the adventure in learning and discovery,” Oyler shared in an interview with Bustle. “Soon, we were diving deep in the chemistry of makeup, the bonding of atoms through electrons, the physics of light, and how this all interacts with the makeup and colors we love to wear. It truly became a blend of art, science, and the thrill of discovery while learning about the makeup we love to use.”

    Their findings were pretty cool. For example, “pink” lipstick is actually made of dozens of different shades of pigment—pinks, purples, reds, even blues and greens—blended by a cosmetic chemist to give the shade a truly unique hue; pearly glosses like Benefit Ultra Plush Lip Gloss in Dandelion are actually full of teeny, rainbow-colored crystals (a mineral called “bismuth” in the lab) that give the gloss its shine; and matte lipsticks look just as different when you peer into their chemical structure as they do on your lips. Under the microscope, matte formulas appear to have thick “bands” between clusters of pigment, while silky formulas look wet and uniform, since they’re held together more tightly with shiny oils and waxes, says Oyler.

    Next up, more makeup experimentation! Olyer says now that she's put lipstick under a microscope, she’ll be exploring all corners of her makeup bag—from shadows to highlighters in the name of pretty scientific discovery. “It's been a wonderful way to share the beauty of science, and show that science can be found in just about every corner,” she said. “Even in your lipstick drawer.”

    More from Allure:

    The 10 Best Mascaras Under $20

    The 9 Prettiest Date-Night Makeup Looks

    Find the Best Haircut for Your Face Shape

    20 Celebrities Who Look Surprisingly Different Without Their Signature Looks

    7 Weird Tricks for Looking Great in Photos

    10 Celebrity Hairstyles That Make You Look 10 Years Younger

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    A while back I wrote a piece titled “Hollywood Needs More Brown Superheroes”, which was about diversity in the entertainment industry, but also about how I really wanted to be a brown superhero or Jedi. As an Indian actor, I was growing frustrated over the limited variety of roles I could audition for. The representation of brown people in movies and television is just sad. A bunch of nerds to be sidekicks for the charming white lead, or ‘unnamed terrorist’ numbered one through thirty for the human shooting galleries in our America’s-The-Shit action flicks.

    It took less than three auditions in my pursuits before I heard my first, “Can you do the accent?” It didn’t make it better that a bunch of my instructors would tell me things like, “I’ll be real with you, you’ll probably be typecast.”

    It didn’t take long for me, as a minority actor, to realize that roles of any real substance are rare. I found myself falling into cynical asshole mode, skeptical of every gig that came my way. But that’s not the type of creative I wanted to be. I decided to fight for my worth, something I initially did out of great anger. I wanted to pride myself on being the Indian dude that wasn’t going to take any shit.

    It took me a while to understand that anger was not the move. Adopting a more assholish disposition wasn’t helping my situation. It was only making me more difficult to relate to and it certainly didn’t get me any more gigs. My voice was becoming a noise that blended in with everyone else’s, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place. This opened me up to a lot of hypocrisy.


    Rather than killing myself with auditions for shitty roles I didn’t want, I elected to create one for myself and for the other misrepresented people in my life.


    When your perspective is so tightly framed on your own frustrations, you fail to see others who are also struggling to find an adequate representation just like you. I was taking a pain felt by many performers of color and turning it into my own very self-centered thing, as if I were the only one experiencing discrimination in the industry.

    I remember going on an angsty rant about how I couldn’t stand being stereotyped within the industry. When one of my close actor friends showed empathy, I completely rejected the notion that she could understand my frustration. She didn’t share my dark skin and background, how could she possibly know?

    She checked me real quick by letting me know that most of the roles she goes for are of the vapid love interest or manic pixie dream girl - and much of that media perception translates over to her real life. She revealed that many people would completely dismiss her intelligence only because she was a woman.

    In my self-centered ramblings about feeling under-represented, I almost completely shut down someone else’s similar experience. Sometimes you have to be made aware of your assholish-ness - the media’s portrayals I hated so much had actually negatively informed my thoughts on others. Well, fuck. What was a boy to do?

    Representation and inclusivity became prominent topics on my mind. The more I explored these topics, the more I became aware of diversity as an issue across the board. I continued to speak to diverse creatives and performers, and collected a series of conversations which I decided to turn into a project of my own.

    Rather than killing myself with auditions for shitty roles I didn’t want, I elected to create one for myself and for the other misrepresented people in my life. I decided to create ‘Self-Love’, a 20-minute short film based on my experiences and the experiences of my friends within the entertainment industry, specifically with regards to diversity and representation. The film served as a means of channeling my own frustrations in a healthier way. I’m not getting the roles I want? I’ll create my own. My friends aren’t having their stories shared? We’ll share our own. I wanted to feature Indian people in lead roles.

    Rather than giving into the anger, I chose to take responsibility for my voice and acknowledge its power. My voice is still in its infancy but that’s fine. The point is, as diverse creators we have to continue to nurture and push our voices louder and further. That’s how we break the mold.

    The characters in this film mirror the process of the film being made. They acknowledge the misrepresentation within the industry, define their self-love, and eventually feel powerful enough to create something on their own.

    We had no budget and relied heavily on whoever could slot us in their busy schedules to participate. Some professionals and some people chipped in to tell a story they felt strongly about. We shot the project over a four-day period in New York.

    It’s a tricky thing telling a story about diversity in such a crunch because you can’t cover as wide a range of people as you’d like. It’s not a perfect film, but so much heart went into its creation. It’s an important stepping stone for me, and has inspired me to make more intricately crafted projects featuring a diverse group of people in the future. The lesson? If you’re pissed at misrepresentation, don’t wait for the industry to fix things, go out and fix it yourself.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    There is an enormous divide in opinions about porn in our society. Some are completely against it. Some say it is perfectly healthy and natural — that it can be a learning experience, that it can be an exciting addition to sex, and that it can help to relieve stress when no available lovers are on our radar.

    There’s one obvious group that no one really thinks to ask about porn, though—what about the adult entertainment stars?

    One porn star has a unique take on the whole idea, and she wants the world to consider that porn isn’t all about sex — it’s also about the healing power of touch.

    I sat down with­­­­ Nina Hartley, a 58-year old, 33-year veteran of the adult film industry to discuss this topic. You might be surprised, as I was, to learn that in addition to being a woman over 50 who’s still making big waves in our culture, Nina is also a registered nurse.

    When I asked her “Why the porn industry?” Nina explained,

    “I entered the porn industry to heal others through the healing power of touch.”

    Here is a glance at Nina’s story and her philosophy:

    How is touch a Universal Language?

    Touch is a universal language because it's how we communicate before and beyond spoken words. Touch is how we show infants that we care and that they matter to their caregivers. It's how medical professionals communicate to patients that they are safe and seen. Touch is essential for mental and emotional health. It's been shown that punishments like solitary confinement can drive people mad, and we see damage done to children in orphanages in places such as Romania, where insufficient attention stunts their physical growth and mental health.

    The skin is our largest organ. It's how we come to understand the world and our place in it before we can ever speak. How we’re touched tells us a great deal about our worth and gives us our sense of security (or lack thereof). It can set the tone for our entire lives.

    In your 33 years of working in porn, do you feel you've contributed to healing your scene partners?

    Of course! All of my scenes are very intentional, even when I work with someone only once. It's stealth healing. I strive to make my partners feel easy, comfortable, sexy, desirable, competent, safe, and seen. I don't think I'm on anyone's "No" list (and every porn star has one).

    Good, positive touch can lower our cortisol levels, which can improve our libido, sleep, digestion, and immune response. When someone touches our skin through massaging, playing, hugging, handholding, or having physical sex, we begin to experience physiological and physical healing. The same goes for doing porn.

    When did you start believing in the power of touch, and why do you believe we can help ourselves and others heal through touch?

    I'd have to say I started believing sometime before I was ten years old, as I watched my parents try nearly every kind of New Age therapy available in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1960s. All of those ideas were floating around the house and, being a smart, curious, and bookish girl, I paid attention.

    Massage therapy was very big at the time, and I already had an awareness of the concept of "body armor" as promoted by Wilhelm Reich. I could tell that I had this "body armor," and I wanted to do something about it, so I started doing massage therapy when I was just 13.

    Sexual shame is a big part of the conversation about porn. How can we work past that?

    First, we must recognize that shame no longer serves a useful function in our lives and is actually hurting us. That can take decades, as it can be tricky to see how shame works to harm us. Once we decide that we want to dance with this particular demon, it usually takes some therapy with a caring professional to help us through it. I was in great pain for many, many years before the pain and suffering were finally greater than my fear of change/truth—enough so that I could finally walk away.

    We work past shame with compassion, self-awareness, and personal responsibility.

    How does touching help to heal us while we're having physical sex?

    Touch during sex is how we communicate to our partners that they matter, that we're paying attention, that we want them, that we welcome them, and that we won't hurt them. An orgasm is a momentary chemical/physical release that we can do on our own, but making love with a partner allows us, hopefully, to feel safe and loved and to communicate the same to our partner.

    Porn can be a divisive subject, but hopefully we can all get behind the healing power of touch, which Nina has made the heart of her life’s work in porn and as a nurse. So, no matter what your opinions on porn may be, consider bringing more touch into your relationships, and feel the healing effects of positive, loving contact for yourself.

    Sandra LaMorgese PhD is an expert in personal and professional reinvention, authentic living, communication, and bridging the gap between sexuality and a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. She is the CEO of Attainment Studios, a sex positive business directory website designed to bring together members of the sex-positive community, and for finding solutions for your professional and personal needs. Her recent book Switch: Time for a Change, is a memoir of her journey from holistic practitioner to professional dominatrix at 55-years-old after losing everything, and her passion and purpose is to empower others towards healthy authentic living. To learn more about Sandra and receive your FREE eBook "5 Steps for Better Communication, Sex, and Happiness (Did I mention better sex?) visit

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    By Phoebe Maltz Bovy

    PRIVILEGE-CENTRIC ARTS CRITICISM began to take off around the same time as online social-justice YPIS (Your Privilege is Showing). The two phenomena act in synergy with cultural production itself, which now must preemptively deflect these accusations. Privilege checks have been appearing for a while in A. O. Scott’s movie reviews. In 2010, he took on the Sex and the City movie sequel in explicitly YPIS terms:

    [T]he ugly smell of unexamined privilege hangs over this film like the smoke from cheap incense. Over cosmos in their private bar, Charlotte and Miranda commiserate about the hardships of motherhood and then raise their glasses to moms who “don’t have help,” by which they mean paid servants. Later the climactic crisis raises the specter either of Samantha going to jail or the friends having to fly home in coach, and it’s not altogether clear which prospect they regard as more dreadful.

    It’s not clear what it means to accuse escapist entertainment of “unexamined privilege.” Nor is it evident who Scott hoped would do this examining. But so it goes with the dubious awareness requirement.

    Scott went for a deeper privilege critique in his December 2012 review of Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, which, as he describes it, “is all about Pete and Debbie, who, along with their two daughters, occupy a big white house in one of Los Angeles’s nicer ZIP codes and who, in the course of a hectic week, undergo—well, what, exactly? A matched set of midlife crises? A rough patch in their marriage? A flurry of ‘first-world problems’ so trivial as to be an insult to the planet’s struggling masses?” Scott spells out that “for all its crude jokes and on-the-money observations of the tastes and consumer habits of aging white Gen X-ers (we still love the Pixies!), This Is 40 should not be mistaken for satire.” The film’s problem, in other words, isn’t its depiction of privilege, but its lack of self-awareness. It’s good and well to make a movie about rich white people with nonproblems, as long as you, perhaps, affix a disclaimer?

    While variants of it appeared slightly earlier, the “privilege” critique as we know it today—where “privilege” is the only lens through which a work can be discussed—began in the spring of 2012, with the backlash to Lena Dunham’s HBO series, Girls. Just about everything written about the show—and even in its defense—addressed the “privilege” question, which had not really been a question until that point. Dunham, it was generally agreed, should be, must be, referred to as “privileged”; failure to mention Dunham’s privilege, and to do so with the term “privilege,” was tantamount to declaring one’s support for injustice. Dunham’s Fresh Air interview about the show, the month after Girls first aired, wasn’t the usual promotional introduction, but was presented, instead, under the heading, “Lena Dunham Addresses Criticism Aimed at ‘Girls,’” that criticism being “that the show is narcissistic, lacks racial diversity and showcases whiny, privileged millennials complaining about topics only relevant to whiny, privileged millennials.” The only thing everyone could agree on about the show was that it and its creator embodied “privilege,” and that to discuss the show was to discuss that aspect of it.

    Given that Girls was the ten-trillionth show about a group of white friends living in New York and trying to make it in glamorous professions, it’s not immediately obvious why this one set forth the privilege critique. If we want to pin this on Dunham’s own “privilege”—and what notorious “privilege” it is—we still come up short. In an industry filled with nepotism, the specific variant she benefits from—she’s the child of successful artists—puts her ahead of most, but hardly makes her success predestined. And the show’s New Brooklyn setting, while overrepresented in the cultural sphere, is far from the most posh onscreen setting. (Half of American entertainment takes place in enormous California beach houses.) If “privilege” is spectacular wealth or unearned advantage, surely better examples could be found, even in 2012 alone. (The “Housewives” franchise comes to mind.)

    The explanation for the Girls-as-privilege meme lies in a convergence of the content (especially of the pilot); the marketing of the show; and the broader culture in which it first appeared, namely a post-recession America not inclined to sympathize with the non-problems of a group of broke but safety-net-having young Brooklynites. The show opens with Dunham’s character, Hannah, learning from her parents—at an upscale New York restaurant—that they’re about to cut her off. A no-longer-so-recent college grad, her parents had been supporting her as she interned for free at a publishing house. An indictment of the times, but mainly one of the sort of recent grad who doesn’t at least try to find paid work. We watch Hannah whine and plead for her parents to keep supporting her. The episode ends with a still-more-cringe-inducing version of the opening scene: Hannah notices and pockets the money her parents have left for the hotel housekeeper. Insofar as “privilege” is brattiness, it’s certainly privilege being depicted. Some kind of messy conflation of Hannah the character and Dunham the person, and of the portrayal of a behavior and the celebration of the same, led to a collective—mistaken!—belief that the show was not just about but created by the unapologetically spoiled.


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    The show was presented as an anti-Sex and the City, offering a grittier, more authentic portrait of single female friends in New York. This promise of social realism set the show up for a certain kind of criticism. Without the scrappiness promise, it seems unlikely anyone would have found the show all that “privileged.” As New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum pointed out in an early review, “like SATC, Dunham’s show takes as its subject women who are quite demographically specific—cosseted white New Yorkers from educated backgrounds—then mines their lives for the universal.” The difference, Nussbaum argued—justly—lay in the “very different stages of life” depicted, rather than in the two shows’ socioeconomic worlds. Something similar could be said about the furious response to the show’s lack of nonwhite characters. As writer Anna Holmes pointed out in The New Yorker, some of the backlash was simply about the times (“this is 2012”), but I’d say it stemmed at least as much from Dunham’s own self-presentation as a progressive, and the breathless treatment of “Girls” as “groundbreaking.” A female creator, and so young! And so clearly not chosen for her adherence to conventional beauty standards! Holmes wrote that the show’s whiteness was “all the more surprising because Dunham, a self-described feminist, seems unaware that the progressive gender politics she embraces have a long and frustrating history of relegating race to the sidelines.” Indeed, if liking Girls hadn’t been presented as almost a progressive requirement, it seems far more likely it would have been permitted to just be a show.

    I’d pause, for a moment, on two words from Holmes’s assessment: “seems unaware.” The conversation about Girls ended up hinging not on the show, and not even exactly on the identity of the show’s creator. Rather, the central concern was Dunham herself—her own relationship to privilege, and her ability to satisfactorily perform privilege awareness. The question, when it comes to Lena Dunham, is always this: Does she get it? Has she, Lena Dunham, properly reckoned with her place in the world, and properly conveyed the fruits of said reckoning to the appropriate commentators? The far bigger question, namely of who gets to make a show in the first place, took a backseat to questions of whom Dunham chose to cast, and what sort of stance the show was taking. Consider writer Max Read on Gawker, posting in response to a tweet of Dunham’s he felt didn’t come across quite right:

    I used to think that [she] just hadn’t learned her lesson about treating minority groups as subjects for the children of privilege to strike poses over at dinner parties or make jokes about on Twitter, and that eventually she would stop saying stupid things and hanging out with stupid people. But, no, as it turns out, she’s just an asshole.

    For a time, it seemed as if social justice itself hinged on this one woman “learn[ing] her lesson.” There’s surprisingly little hint, actually, of this pattern letting up.

    Dunham, herself, I’m not too worried about. She’s made unexamined privilege (which is to say, painstakingly examined privilege) her brand. Maybe it helped that she was already getting this label in the years before her privilege went viral: A New Yorker profile of her from back in 2010, pre-Girls, ran with the subhead, “Lena Dunham Cheerfully Exposes Her Privileged Life.” She’s the think-piece face of millennial entitlement, which, if nothing else, keeps her in the news. “Is Lena Dunham too privileged to fail?” asked a Daily Beast writer, in reference to does it even matter at this point? “Lena Dunham apologizes for…” is a veritable genre. To be the symbol of the issue of the moment is surely exhausting, but she has, if not sought that out, found a way to make being so profitable.


    Copyright © 2017 by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

    The Perils of

    Phoebe Maltz Bovy is a writer born and raised in New York City, now living in Toronto. Her essays on privilege have appeared in The New Republic and The Atlantic, among other publications. She has a doctorate in French and French Studies from New York University.

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    Laura Apol, Michigan State University

    The American poet William Stafford was often asked by friends, readers, students and colleagues: When did you become a poet? The response he regularly offered was: “The question isn’t when I became a poet; the question is when other people stopped.” The Conversation

    Stafford was articulating what many poets believe: that the roots of poetry (rhythm, form, sound) go far back – both personally and culturally – “to the crib” and “to the fire in front of the cave.”

    No surprise, then, that children delight in the pleasures of lullabies, nursery rhymes, chants and jingles. They bounce, clap, dance – responding in ways that involve their whole bodies. Yet as they get older, their delight in poetry often fades. Their pleasure in language and form lessens. In Stafford’s words, they stop being poets.

    How have schools been part of this evolution, and what can they do to bring back delight?

    History of poetry in schools

    Historically, poetry has played an important role in the curriculum of U.S. schools. Early American textbooks such as “The New England Primer” and the McGuffey Readers taught children to read with a combination of poetry and prose. In this way, poetry was used to teach morals, patriotism and nationalism, along with subject areas like geography and mathematics.

    In 19th- and early 20th-century classrooms, “schoolroom poetry” was memorized and performed as a way to promote citizenship, to create a shared sense of community, to develop an American identity and to assist with language acquisition – particularly among immigrants. Because they were meant to be learned “by heart,” the poems taught usually rhymed, had regular meter and used language that was easy to understand, remember and repeat.

    This ease of form and content was not, however, matched by historical accuracy. Writers sometimes rewrote history into poems that celebrated American values. Take, for example, “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published in 1860. The narrative is compelling for memorization and performance, and portrays an admirable version of American heroism; however, it contains little documented historical “truth.”

    Learned “by heart” and shared with an audience, these poetic retellings of America’s past had significant cultural impact: Both the performer and those listening internalized a story that promoted a specific version of nationalism.

    In the mid-20th century, it became less important for schools to make citizens or teach English language through memorized lines. Instead, poetry in schools separated into two strands: “serious poetry” and “verse.” Serious poetry was studied; it was officially sanctioned, used to teach literary elements like iambic pentameter, rhymed couplets, metaphor and alliteration. Verse, on the other hand, was unsanctioned – playful, irreverent and sometimes offensive. It was embraced by children for the sake of pleasure and delight.

    By the late 20th century, classrooms and curricula began to value the sciences over literary expression and information and technology over art. The study of any poetry – serious or not – became marginalized, seldom occurring except in AP courses preparing students for college literature study.

    Poetry in the classroom today

    Though the late 20th century saw a decline in the study of poetry in schools, recent decades have seen an upsurge in poetry that is more relevant and more accessible to young people.

    For instance, if in the past, schoolchildren learned poems written almost exclusively by white men glorifying a sanitized version of American history, recently students have begun to read poems by poets who represent racial, ethnic, cultural or religious diversity as part of their heritage. This represents a major development in the world of poetry for children.

    Poets in recent years have introduced English-speaking children to a range of cross-cultural poetic forms: Japanese haiku, Korean sijo and the Middle Eastern ghazal. Poets have published collections of poetry (often multilingual) from around the world, conveying the experiences of culturally diverse national and international groups.

    As well, children have access to poetry by groups that have historically been marginalized and silenced in American schools: Native Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, as well as LGBTQ poets, poets with disabilities and poets from a range of religious backgrounds.

    Many young people are also writing poems themselves – both inside and outside the classroom. There are a number of recent collections of poetry that contain the voices of young writers: “Things I Have to Tell You: Poems and Writing by Teenage Girls,” “Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorp,” “When The Rain Sings: Poems By Young Native Americans,” “Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young People” and “The Palm of my Heart: Poems by African American Children.” These collections are often used in classrooms to teach poetry as a vehicle for self expression.

    15-year-old Chloe Humphrys performs her poem ‘Youth’ at a slam poetry competition.

    Blue Mountains Library / flickr, CC BY

    Young people finding their poetic voices

    In addition to writing poetry in their classes, today’s young writers are appearing on numerous poetry websites and are circulating poems – their own and those of others – through social media.

    The most exciting development in the world of poetry for young people is in the arena of performance. There is a widespread renewed interest in spoken poetry for and by young people. Its growth is signaled by the emergence of hip-hop, rap, poetry slams and spoken-word poetry events.

    The roots of poetry are in speaking and listening. Poetry events for young people once again allow students to perform for an audience those poems they have committed to memory and learned “by heart.” If, in the past, poems were memorized as a way to indoctrinate students into a way of being “American,” today’s young poets are using their words and voices to express their own cultural and political convictions and commitments.

    As a poet, educator and scholar, I am heartened by the current reinvigoration of the field. In myriad forms by diverse writers in a variety of venues, poems for children are happening.

    Young people are growing their own voices, falling in love with words, writing and performing their own poems.

    In and out of schools, they are reclaiming the poet selves that Stafford believes they were born with – through a powerful and continuing relationship with the rhythms, forms and sounds that are poems.

    Laura Apol, Poet, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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  • 03/24/17--10:41: Earth Without Art Is Just Eh

  • Eh, according to Merriam-Webster, is used to ask someone to repeat something, which makes, “Eh?” an appropriate response to the President’s FY18 budget blueprint to eliminate funding for The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

    Established in 1965, the NEA is an independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. 

    I for one am a lover, practitioner, and advocate for the Arts and Arts education. Because it is my life’s work, as well as my hobby, I see the benefit of the arts from a biased view. To me, everything else in the world is flat and boring. Art gives depth to life.

    When I was kid I could only tolerate the boring news because of the colorful info-graphic over the shoulder of the newscaster. Without The Arts, life is just 2D.

    “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

    ~ Confucius

    The Arts make us who we are. In early development, we learn through musical and visual cues. Can you recite the ABC’s without also hearing the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? 

    Numerous research studies show music in school improves language, math, attendance, and confidence.

    The Arts Education Partnership reviewed an extensive body of research to identify high quality, evidence-based studies that document student learning outcomes associated with music education. The results show that music education equips students with the foundational abilities to learn, to achieve in other core academic subjects, and to develop the capacities, skills and knowledge essential for lifelong success.

    The report from studies around the country showed that music education enhances fine motor skills; Prepares the brain for achievement; Fosters superior working memory; Cultivates better thinking skills; Sharpens student attentiveness; Strengthens perseverance; Equips students to be creative; Supports better study habits and self-esteem; Improves recall and retention of verbal information; Advances math achievement; Boosts reading and English language arts skills; and Improves average SAT scores – to name a few.

    “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

    - Henry David Thoreau

    Brain development doesn’t stop when we are young. The Arts continue to have profound impacts on our adult lives. 

    A published study of music on a molecular level (The effect of listening to music on human transcriptome. PeerJ. 2015) showed that listening to classical music enhanced activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion, also known as the feel good hormone.

    Our brain rewards us with dopamine for various behaviors. Addictive food and drugs increase dopamine activity. Maybe instead of a war on drugs, we just pump better music into the airwaves.

    Art, Drama, and Music therapy are other areas of scientific interest. Research has shown hip-hop lyrics offer individuals suffering from cognitive illnesses a fresh way of thinking, while creating, singing, moving, and/or listening to music reduced symptoms in depressed adolescents.

    With the depressing unveiling of budget cuts, 10 out of 10 scientists recommend we all tune in to the classical station ASAP.

    Dear POTUS, try “Nocturnes Opus 9 no. 2” by Chopin. It might help you sleep better and prevent regrettable 3 AM Twitter rants.   

    If Trump wants to put “security” first, paying a larger sum to the first lady’s living expenses in NYC, while eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, what does he anticipate the future looking like? And will it really be more secure?

    Because Art drives a movement, perhaps the POTUS will feel more secure with less pink knitted hats in circulation; or less of the best protest signs we’ve seen parading in recent history.

    Dear POTUS, try 'Nocturnes Opus 9 no. 2' by Chopin. It might help you sleep better and prevent regrettable 3 AM Twitter rants.

    Art is the reflection and celebration of diversity and heritage. It strengthens a nation. War only diminishes diversity and puts a country at risk.

    A country that truly cares about its own people and its future cares about how well our young people are set up to succeed. Investment in the arts and arts education for young people is a true demonstration that from the very seat of our government, we value each other, our people and who we will grow to be. Taking that away leads one to question, who benefits from this? Who do we value most in our society? Whose interests are we pandering to? Are our laws and policies really looking to the future of our people or the fattening of a fortunate few?

    The World Happiness Report is a measure of happiness published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network to help countries guide their public policies. Nations that top the list are typically those that address sustainability and well-being.

    An excerpt from the 2017 Report (Chapter 7, Restoring America’s Happiness,) states “income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen. The situation has gotten worse in recent years: per capita GDP is still rising, but happiness is now actually falling.”

    What good comes from making America rich again, if America has no programs to improve the quality of life?

    Respectfully, if the administration is more concerned with business, then by all means invest in the Arts. Throw more parties. Produce more concerts. Celebrate our diversity with us. Girls just want to have fun.

    Even the Ukraine-born oil billionaire Len Blavatnik knew well enough to buy my record label’s parent company, Warner Music Group, as well as AI Film, and invest in Beats.

    Nations around the world adore and imitate American music and cinema. Entertainment is a major export, yet our Art sharing services are practically free and/or completely pirated by some countries. Art isn’t a renewable resource. If the Artists can’t feed their families, they will no longer be able to produce art. Get with the Arts program America! 

    “The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them...

    Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

    - Winston Churchill

    Art is more than jazz, tap, and ballet. Art provides the rhythm and poetics behind the great speeches that define generations and change the world.

    Sir Winston Churchill used painting to steady his mind for leadership and stave off depression, eventually inspiring George W. Bush to demonstrate just how tender, healing and transformative the Arts can be.

    Which leads me to wonder: If funding for a new generation of artists and unifying programs goes away, just so we can refurbish our military might and security forces, who’s going to paint the beautiful murals on Trump’s wall?

    Investment in the arts and arts education for young people is a true demonstration that from the very seat of our government, we value each other, our people and who we will grow to be.

    In closing this case for the Arts, I’d like to add my personal observation that all people everywhere just want to be seen and heard. Without acknowledgement people lash-out and do harsh things just to say “I need love!” When we give our time or attention to someone, we help them. We see them. We connect at a deeper level. And we heal. 

    The Arts are a vital and intelligent way to be seen and heard. Artists share their stories – and the stories resonate with the true lives of an audience. In theaters, art spaces, and concert halls around the world we come together in harmony. Literally. And we heal the world. 

    “Music expresses that which cannot be said  and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

    – Victor Hugo 

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    A Broadway Review by Dr. Lloyd Sederer

    Human kindness seems in far too short supply in recent months.

    We are amidst a national con, perpetrated by a select and vainglorious group of elected officials in the White House and Congress ( Their concern is not with those whom they were voted in to serve, but with themselves. They recklessly pursue commitments to enrich the already rich, to diminish essential supports for those living in poverty and with disability, turn blind eyes to racism and discrimination, and who proffer punitive or xenophobic solutions to so many human ails and problems.

    If you looking to rediscover the power of human kindness, you can do so in a resounding way in about 90 minutes by seeing the new Broadway one act play, Come From Away, playing at the Schoenfeld Theatre.

    After the planes struck New York City, The Pentagon and went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11/2001, the airspace into the United States was shut down. Planes enroute were ordered to emergency land in available airports distant from our borders. The town of Gander (population 11,254 at that time) on the northeast tip of Newfoundland had a huge airport, a remnant of when transatlantic jets needed to refuel there to make it to American destinations. Thirty eight passenger planes, with near to 7,000 children and adults of every age, race and religion, from many countries, as well as cats, dogs, and a couple of baboons (enroute to a zoo) were grounded in Gander, which, incidentally had about 500 hotel rooms and was under a bus strike.

    The people and planes were stuck, as was the town, for an unforeseeable number of days as they turned on their TVs and witnessed the heartbreaking news about the terrorist attacks on the United States.

    So begins Come From Away, where a cast of 12, all playing more than one role, and an onstage 8 piece band (conducted by Ian Eisendrath, who also played various keyboards) sang and danced into our hearts and souls. A musical about 9/11, you may ask? Indeed, and it worked in so many ways, thanks to the brilliant writing and composing of Irene Sankoff and David Hein.

    The story line, taken from those actual five days in Gander, reveals how a community can find its compassion and unbridled generosity, and deliver to 7,000 frightened and angry people - ‘from away’ - the care they needed. The town (and other towns nearby) housed, fed and comforted more than a 50% increase in their population for 5 sleepless days and nights.

    The ensemble was pitch perfect. They were choreographed to move, often in dance and always with gracefulness, from planes, to buses, to shelters, to bars, to neighborhoods and to homes. They never strayed from acting as one collective group, portraying the community’s commonly felt anguish and the wellspring of tenderness in their hearts.

    The singing was lovely, with group and individual solos that will transport you. I thought the show’s musical high point was by Captain Beverly Bass (Jenn Colella), the first woman commercial pilot and among those on the Gander tarmac. She takes a seat center stage and, with up-tempo music and lyrics, sings “Me And The Sky”, flying us to the heights of the courage and grit needed for a woman to break the glass ceiling of commercial airlines and become a jumbo jet pilot for American Airlines. And with pathos that spread throughout the theatre was another remarkable, though tragic, solo by the Hannah (Q. Smith), the mother of NYC firefighter, who sang us “I Am Here”. Mayor Claude Elliott (Joel Hatch) showed us, with song (leading “Welcome To The Rock” and other numbers) that resolve and leadership can bring a community together, acting as one and putting their needs aside for the sake of others.

    But it was the play’s message that had me walk out onto 45th Street in tears and with hope: When something is lost something can be gained.

    When you have had enough of the endless media stories of the dark days we are in and need a hearty dose of human kindness and hope, get yourself to this play.


    Dr. Lloyd Sederer is a psychiatrist and public health doctor. The opinions offered here are entirely his own.

    His latest books are Improving Mental Health; Four Secrets in Plain Sight (2017) and Controversies in Mental Health and the Addictions (2017).


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    Throughout my childhood, Maine was home to the farm where Wilbur the pig and Templeton the rat dictated words to the spider Charlotte, a bucolic state where Fern lived with her family in pastoral bliss. So perhaps it was no surprise that I married a man who went to school in Maine and that one of our favorite summers was spent on a 45-foot Hinckley in Blue Hill near Brooklin where E.B. White once lived and wrote.

    As beautiful as Maine remains for millions of annual visitors and second-home owners, the works of native-born artist Marsden Hartley (1877–1943) are a reminder of how difficult it can be to “go home again,” in the words of Thomas Wolfe, another artist whose home state proved impossible to escape.

    Fortunately, the influence of Maine in the imagination of Hartley can be witnessed firsthand at the brilliantly-curated exhibition Marsden Hartley’s Maine at The Met Breuer. Nearly one hundred paintings and drawings depict Hartley’s evolving relationship with the state to which he returned repeatedly.

    According to curator Randall Griffey, Hartley’s “lifelong artistic engagement with his home state of Maine” occurred during a time when regionalism was in its heyday alongside “the notion that great art came from an artist’s connection to a place.” Hartley’s feelings about Maine, however, were complicated by his homosexuality. As Griffey explains, “Hartley was gay, which played a part in his conflicted feelings about his homeland because it was not as permissible to lead an out, gay life in rural Maine—and you see Hartley really wrestling with that relationship over the course of his career.”

    One entire room at the Breuer is hung with Hartley’s paintings of what the Met’s overview terms as Maine’s “hardy inhabitants”—many of whom are (for some of us, anyway) more than merely hardy. Indeed, the exhibition’s poster (now showing on local bus stops) comes from a painting titled Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, painted between 1940–41—and, in some versions, the detail from the painting stops just atop the suggestively stuffed carnation pink swimsuit.

    As Hartley wrote to a friend about another one of his “hardy” models, “I went down into the bowels of the Y.M.C.A. and pulled up this ‘true beaut’… Well, the model is a wonder and we are quiet friends now…” To gaze at this wondrous specimen so splendidly depicted by Hartley in Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy (1940) is to gaze into the artist’s interior being and to recognize the longing that filled Hartley in Maine.

    As Griffey contends, “Hartley had a wonderfully rich but complicated and sometimes contradictory relationship with Maine—and I think that’s an experience that so many people can identify with, especially if you are from one place and you leave it—and then you try to come back.”

    A worldly and cosmopolitan painter who lived a peripatetic life, Hartley spent a number of years in Paris and Berlin. Hartley’s Painting, Number 5 (1914-15), most recently seen at the new Whitney’s inaugural exhibition America Is Hard to See, eulogizes the young German military officer whom Hartley loved. In this discordant canvas, Hartley combines the brilliant colors of German Expressionism with Cubist fragments of military regalia to render the heartbreak of human loss in war. Similarly, at the Met Breuer, some viewers might imagine an Aryan sensibility in Hartley’s Young Hunter Hearing Call to Arms (ca.1939) in which a beautiful blond hunter on bended knee offers antlers as a “call to arms.”

    As a fellow artist, Hartley revered Paul Cézanne and the Met Breuer exhibition complements Hartley’s art with works from artists whose influence is most notable. Apart from Cézanne, the works from the Met collection include pieces by Japanese printmakers Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai, as well as paintings by Winslow Homer and Albert Pinkham Ryder.

    While many of the works in the exhibition are, in Griffey’s words, “dark and moody” and “not conventionally pretty,” there’s little question about the import of Maine and its rugged, natural beauty in Hartley’s art. For those of us who have long appreciated Maine’s attributes, a painting like Hartley’s Summer, Sea, Window, Red Curtain (1942) is a poignant reminder of the state’s myriad summer charms.

    According to Griffey, “One of the key threads in this show is what happens upon the return [home]—and how do you make art out of that.” The answer is to be found in this beautifully-realized exhibition.

    Co-organized with the Colby College Museum of Art, Marsden Hartley's Maine remains at the Met Breuer through June 18, 2017, whereafter it will be featured in Waterville, Maine at Colby College from July 8 through November 12, 2017. As an accompaniment to the exhibition, the 184-page hardcover catalogue includes nearly 200 full color illustrations alongside essays by the co-curators and with additional contributions from conservators.

    Those who wish further information about Hartley would do well to visit Maine to witness firsthand the sites that inspired Hartley to become known as “The Painter of Maine.”

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    YouTube continues to grown overtime as a platform where millions of creators upload thousands of videos each day. From Tag Videos to Short Films, YouTube provides a space for creators of all kinds to share their work with the world. However, it can become hard to find new creators with the overwhelming amount of content that exists on the website. With March being International Women’s History Month, what better time to highlight some of the amazing women on YouTube that are making content about disabilities, educating others on their experiences, and making online content more accessible to others.

    Annie Elainey:

    Annie is a queer lifestyle blogger and writer who creates content that gives audiences a glimpse of how Ehlers-Danlos impacts her life in a number of ways. Annie also creates videos that touch on body image, the LGBTQ+ community, and occasionally posts some amazing musical covers that are sure to put a smile on your face. Annie is a passionate advocate for proper representation for disabled people in a number of fields and works to shed light on invisible disabilities, their importance, and how it’s often related to limited representation of disabled people in the media. You can also find Annie at VidCon in Anaheim this year where Annie will be a featured creator.

    (Click on the video below for a captioned version)

    Rikki Poynter:

    Rikki describes herself as a “25 Year Old Deaf Vlogger” in her channel description, but her work online stretches far beyond a simple identifier. I first came across one of Rikki’s videos nearly a year ago where she talked about the importance of captions on YouTube Videos, which inspired me to start putting captions on to my own videos. In Sept 2016, Rikki launched an online campaign called #NoMoreCraptions that aimed to raise awareness about the inaccuracy of automated captioning on YouTube, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines of Closed Captioning, and why “jokes” are inappropriate in captions, since millions of people depend on accurate captions. If you are looking to learn more about the deaf community, Rikki’s channel is a perfect place to start, especially if you are a Pokemon fan!

    Claire Wineland - The Clarity Project:

    Claire is a YouTuber who documents her daily life as she lives with cystic fibrosis, a disease that  impacts her lungs and digestive system, and requires her to do treatments for hours each day. Claire’s channel is dedicated to answering questions, providing information about cystic fibrosis, and making discussions surrounding such topics more common on YouTube. Channels like Claire’s are important because not only does she work to educate others on an experience outside of their own, but also shows others in similar situations that they aren’t alone.

    Haben Girma:

    While Haben is not a traditional “creator” in the way that the other women mentioned are, she’s no stranger to online video. YouTube is full of countless interviews with Haben, discussing her activism within disabled communities; and she’s even given a TedTalk! Haben is the first Deaf-Blind Harvard Law School Graduate, and is a passionate advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, receiving recognition from Forbes 30 under 30 and Former President Barack Obama. Haben offers training in providing accessibility for various types of disabilities and also speaks professionally to audiences of all sizes. While she may not run a typical YouTube Channel, Haben’s advocacy is incredible and important.

    There are countless women doing amazing work to erase stigmas surrounding disabilities on YouTube and in other creative spaces. Having conversations about different experiences is one of the greatest aspects of online culture, and it truly is a privilege to be able to learn from these women who are willing to share their experiences with the world in such dynamic ways. They’re proving that YouTube isn’t just for able-bodied creators.

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    It’s fascinating how much theater literature includes a father-son theme. Perhaps unexpectedly, that’s at the heart of John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons, which isn’t only wall-to-wall hilarious but ultimately also deeply moving—and highly recommended.

    As the solo show at the Public’s Anspacher begins, Leguizamo, dressed like a funky teacher, enters a set that designer Rachel Hauck has arranged to look like a schoolroom replete with two-sided blackboard and books in various crates.

    The comedian—who gives the impression of having been wound up to the max before arriving—lets his (already adoring) audience know that some time ago he realized his suspiciously quiet son was being bullied at school. An Irish kid had been inaccurately labeling him a “beaner” (Mexican, for those who don’t recognize the term) and claiming that there are no heroes in the background.

    (Note that in talking about bullying, Leguizamo is responding to another current issue. Even Melania Trump has talked about taking up the fight. Might she be preparing a one-woman show about Barron and her?)

    Loving father that he is, Leguizamo decided right then to search history for evidence that Latins have as rich a trove of evidence as anything European. Off he goes with his own brand of scathing and kinetic humor to locate any amount of substantiating evidence. On his paternal crusade, he practically attacks the blackboard, drawing diagrams of North, Central and South America. He brings the Mayans and the Aztecs into his jazzed discussion.

    He refers steamily to Montezuma, Atahualpa, Cortez and Pizarro and the years 1529 and 1531. To build his ultimately illuminating argument he races around grabbing books placed around the set and reads from them, shows illustrations from them. He’s tireless as he counts and recounts the ways he’s attempted to fire enthusiasm in his worried offspring.

    One enormous plus he brings in is dance. But this is Leguizamo. He doesn’t just list dancing. He takes the opportunity to break into a propulsive demonstration of the samba, the mambo, the cha-cha, et cetera. That’s not the only time, either, that he breaks out his slick moves, a tactic he knows his audience loves, and sound designer Bray Poor keeps the musical inserts blasting.

    Throughout, the gleeful 90-minute lecture, he repeats conversations with his wife, his daughter and his son. His daughter, forever wearing headphones is a teenager who thinks she knows everything, and she’s often right about that. At times, she’s certainly savvier than her dad.

    Repeatedly attempting to get through to his son, Leguizamo mimes talking to him at—often only through—his bedroom door. (Lighting designer Alexander V. Nichols works that out and keeps the imaginative lighting going from start to finish.)

    And here’s where he strides confidently into sentimental territory. He eventually gets through to the youngster but not necessarily in the way he expected. He ends by attending the school assembly where the students present their projects. From his son, he hears what he’s helped shaped—and it isn’t entirely dry-eye material.

    Because this is Leguizamo, there are substantial laughs along the way. He calls Columbus “the Donald Trump of the New World.” And there are political jabs as well. Very early on, he brings up Iowa Republican Steve King’s ignorant comment about American culture being strictly of white heritage.

    To some extent, Latin History for Morons, beautifully directed by Tony Taccone, is a pointed response to King, for whom it should be required viewing. The rest of us can just line up to cheer it.

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    When Peter Getzels and I were asked to make a documentary in the Czech Republic about a 90 year-old harpsichordist, I envisioned a barbed-wire dive into history, with the music of J.S. Bach to soften the blows. As with every new production, I had a steep learning curve. But I never imagined the film would morph from an inspirational, self-contained history piece, to a chilling, cautionary tale about our world today.

    The most alluring part of the production was getting to know the musical virtuoso Zuzana Ruzickova, who survived three concentration camps and slave-labor as a teenager, and forty years of communism in Czechoslovakia after the war. Her American cousin Frank Vogl, built a career around fighting corruption. When Peter and I first met with him in 2013 to discuss a film about his work, the conversation turned to life under the communists in Czechoslovakia. He described how his cousin had become one of the world’s greatest interpreters of Bach despite the regime.

    “Can we meet her?” Peter said, “because we should really try to film with her. Immediately.” As a Jewish American whose family has been in the US for nearly a hundred years, I often wondered what I would do if power were seized by an elected dictator; someone who defied laws and civil rights with impunity, and persecuted minorities. Would I join the resistance or hope for better times? Would I wait around, or flee?

    “You pronounce my name like rouge,” Zuzana Ruzickova told me when we first met in Prague. She spoke with formidable precision and a smile. “You have to soften your ‘z’; It’s rouge-ITCH-kova.” I nodded and repeated her inflection, happy that she came with a simpler first name. Her life however, was anything but simple.

    During our four-day interview in Zuzana’s vintage kitchen – her home since the end of World War II – we encountered a woman who knew no shortage of hardship; but also joy. Zuzana’s dignity enabled her to tell a larger metaphysical story than the sum of the blows she suffered as a teenager in Terezin, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her caustic humor fueled outrage that modern Europe under the communists could be so bizarrely crazy and cruel. But with every new twist in her epoch story, Zuzana seemed to get inside the head of JS Bach.

    What would the Baroque composer have made of her world, had he woken up beside her on the train to Auschwitz? How would he have responded if he were employed not by the church to compose his music, but by the town council of her Marxist Leninist state? With a warm, stony stare after every turn in her story, Zuzana speculated on Bach. Like her, he had little control over much of his life. For Zuzana his music captures a higher order, which has spoken to her since she was eight years old.

    “He starts with a fugue,” she says, “that transcends our worries and pains. It’s above human suffering.” As she describes the music of Bach, it feels as if his higher order embedded itself in her DNA as a child, to protect her from everything that conspired to annihilate her, while guiding her to the legendary acclaim she won in the music world.

    Although she refused to join the communist party, the leaders promoted her talent for profit and status. After she won the top award at the Munich Festival in 1956, they dispatched her to hundreds of international concerts and competitions. While the communists confiscated much of her wages, they could never rob her of the power and dignity of her performances. In 1964 a Paris record producer from the Erato label flew to Prague, and offered her a contract to record all the keyboard works of Bach.

    “This was one of the happiest eras of my life,” she says. Few people know that Bach composed his keyboard works only for the harpsichord, a 14th century instrument made of wood, string, feathers or quill; which explains why Zuzana committed herself to this instrument. Recently Warner Music digitized the entire opus, and released her recordings on a 20-CD box set.

    “Those sessions in Paris happened over a period of ten years,” she says. “But the minders were with me every minute.” Her face darkens with disapproval as she refers to her communist chaperones. “When I hear the recordings now, I want to make corrections. I was only allowed to stay in Paris for 3 or 4 days at a time; so I never had a chance to sit with the engineer, and tell him which recordings to keep.”

    As our production neared completion, I imagined the experience of watching the film: hearts would sink with the turmoil in young Zuzana’s life; and leap with joy at the sheer majesty of her music. I envisioned all the horror and triumph in the face of Nazis and Communists, contained in a kind of cultured, Eastern European bell jar.

    And then the bell jar shattered. First with the Brexit vote driven by xenophobes; then when Trump won the election, showing little respect for tolerance and democracy; as if Nazi and Communist genies had escaped from our bell jar. The genies took the form of Alt-Righters and Russian hackers, taunting what we’ve always taken for granted: that democracy is forever; that our constitution is infinitely wise; and that the office of the president exists to respect and sustain both.

    What does Zuzana make of these ‘never again’ events? “I’m turning 90 and I’ve seen so much,” she says. “Things happen in cycles.” She gives me her ironic, stony stare.

    And what would Bach have made of all this, I ask. “I don’t think he would have changed what he was doing,” she says. “You know, he was a sort of mystic. He didn’t adhere to any single church when he composed. He wrote his music in protest and passion.” Those were the words I was looking for to describe the life of Zuzana Ruzickova: Protest and passion. But they’re no longer part of a story contained in a bell jar. Not history. Not anymore.

    ZUZANA: MUSIC IS LIFE will have its world premier at the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina, on Saturday, April 8, at 10.30am.

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    The recent election of President Donald J Trump left many Americans scratching their heads in confusion. It seemed Hillary Clinton was a lock. How did America elect a racist, misogynist, bigoted man?

    We’re still figuring that one out. Things are not much better post election. There’s constant scandals involving Russia, Ivanka Trump’s official position in the White House, and whatever the hell is going with Devin Nunes. It’s a weird time to watch American politics. How do we cope with the everyday erosion of American rights?

    We know that’s a lofty question. The type you may find in grade school. Ninth grade to be exact. It’s the same question that spurred 14-year-old, Owen Pallenberg, to write about President Trump. The young man created a poem that not only says what we’re all thinking, it may actually say it better.

    Presented in full. We give you “The Race” by Owen Pallenberg:

    A man and a woman were running a race.

    The man dressed in red with a very orange face,

    And the woman dressed in blue with a pantsuit and a briefcase.

    The race was much longer than a dash, mile or marathon,

    And to many Americans it felt like it went on and on.

    This was a race of old and new ideas and one thought,

    And so the race started with the sound of a gunshot.

    The woman dressed in blue was off to a great start,

    She was gaining support and was eager to do her part.

    However the man in the red was racist and sexist I’m sure you would agree,

    He even said he wanted to grab a woman by her...

    As the competitors turned the corner you got a glimpse of the fans,

    And you could hear in the distance a chant about a man with small hands.

    He claimed his hands and feet were quite big,

    All while having a bright orange spray tan and a big yellow wig.

    About halfway through the race the man was falling behind,

    And the supporters of the woman were happy to have saved mankind.

    As the competitors were nearing the finish line,

    The people in blue were already celebrating and drinking their wine.

    The woman approached the finish with a big, wide grin,

    But then something happened that seemed to be the work of Vladimir Putin.

    The woman fell down and lost her lead,

    The win began to feel a lot less guaranteed.

    The man hurdled over her body and crossed the finish,

    And we all knew our Nation’s reputation would certainly diminish.

    The man had somehow done it, he actually won,

    The supporters in blue sat in shock and ceased all of their fun.

    The man was apparently going to Make America Great Again with his campaign,

    And the woman was depressed and had to put away her celebratory champagne .

    The results of this race tore apart our land,

    As millions of Muslims were immediately banned.

    This man can do absolutely no good,

    Except run his mouth and claim he was just misunderstood.

    The man has stated “we need global warming” for all to hear,

    Which has made me quite certain that the end is near.

    He has called women ugly and fat,

    Which has left me wondering how he could have won the race and done all that.

    After insulting and making fun of men and women nationwide,

    I’ve become mortified, horrified, and have lost my American pride.

    Everytime he talks or makes a speech,

    All I can say is impeach, impeach, impeach.

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    So do Mercedes Ibarra and Kikki Eder and for these two who saw marked improvements under ACA, dropping the vote to repeal and replace it last week still leaves them frightened about their healthcare future

    Kikki Eder is 61 years old, formerly employed full time as an internal healthcare auditor for a hospital. After being laid off from her job in 2008 because of hospital cutbacks, she pursued a new career as an artist, fiercely pursuing a way to continue working and supporting herself. Eder was enjoying success as an artist until 2012, when she was diagnosed with lupus, suffering constant joint pain, fatigue, pleurisy, brain fog and anemia.

    In 2013, her lupus became so debilitating she could no longer work at all. Her medical costs were overwhelming, premiums alone were over $800.00 a month, and since lupus is considered a pre-existing condition, she could not get affordable insurance. She was living on money saved for her retirement and help from family.

    “The ACA and Covered California has been a Godsend,” said Eder. “It has made a difference because lupus has affected my life in every way possible physically, emotionally, financially, socially. I would never be getting the treatment from the doctors I can see now without it, it’s incredible. I’m functioning so much better with this level of medical care, I can make plans, do errands and leave the house.”

    Even though the vote to repeal and replace the ACA was dramatically pulled minutes before the vote was to take place, Eder remains skeptical about future healthcare overhaul.

    “I’m deeply concerned about what may come, I think this is only a temporary relief. I don’t trust or have any confidence in what may happen to those of us with chronic diseases, they don’t care about us at all,” she said.

    Currently, Eder pays $294.00 a month for her PPO plan under Covered California, the pre-existing stipulation for lupus no longer an issue under the ACA, and a $3 co-pay for the more than 6 medications she takes. She was denied disability, consulted a lawyer to appeal the decision and has been waiting more than a year and a half for a hearing date.

    Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans and more than 5 million globally. Lupus attacks the immune system, causing pain, inflammation, organ and tissue damage, extreme fatigue and can target anywhere in the body including causing serious facial skin rashes from the sun. Nearly 90% of lupus patients are women, the onset of the disease usually occurring between the ages of l5 and 44, with African-Americans 3 times more likely to get lupus than Caucasians and Latino women 2 times as likely to be hit. It is the leading cause of stroke, heart and kidney disease among young women and the number of patients diagnosed with lupus is growing yearly, especially among children and teenagers. In addition, there are few similarities between patients with lupus, it affects each individual differently, often making a firm diagnosis difficult for those who do not have access to specialists.

    There is no cure for lupus, and we at Lupus LA, including Toni Braxton who is on our Board, are working hard to raise awareness to fund research to find a cure for this little known, major disease that is more common than MS, Cerebral Palsy and Cystic Fibrosis combined. Since 2000, Lupus LA has raised more than $10 million to fund research, create support groups and assist those diagnosed with lupus with critical medical information, patient conferences to meet doctors and specialists, scholarships for those in need, emergency grants and refer doctors. With global reach and recognition while based in LA, Lupus LA has become the “go to” for the latest in research regarding new drug therapies, world renown doctors and researchers, support systems and a staff committed to reaching out to everyone who has a question about the disease.(

    “Lupus LA has been a great resource for me since 2012,” said Eder. “There’s a support group in my area where I can get the latest information on new drugs, recommendations for doctors and specialists, meaningful coping strategies, resources and sharing symptoms with others who suffer from lupus.”

    “The goal at Lupus LA is to be comprehensive and invaluable. We work directly with lupus patients and their families to help them navigate the challenges of their disease and we also work to raise worldwide awareness through our celebrity ambassador program to help educate the public about lupus,” said Adam Selkowitz, Chairman of Lupus LA.

    Mercedes Ibarra enjoyed an active, full time career in the entertainment industry as a Flamenco dancer, spending her evenings and weekends performing in Spanish restaurants and theatres. Recently diagnosed with lupus, the 40 year found it harder and harder to continue her work.

    “I was having crushing fatigue, severe muscle pain, migraines, hair loss, heart palpitations, high fevers and pelvic floor dysfunction making it harder and harder to dance,” said Ibarra. “I had to pare down my work, spending most of the week in bed and trying to work on the weekends.” When she couldn’t keep up her theatre and restaurant commitments, Ibarra turned to teaching dance two days a week. “The kids I teach know I have lupus,” she said. “I’m trying to continue to work while managing my symptoms.”

    Ibarra credits Lupus LA for helping her find doctors at patient conferences. “The support group I attend once a month has had a big impact on my life. I’ve made friends who have been great, we share our experiences and how lupus impacts our families, our work, and it’s a new crossroad for me. I got great information at a patient conference that led me to a cardiologist and this has helped me a lot.”

    Ibarra signed up for ACA coverage under Covered California in 2014. “It has made a huge difference. It was the first time I’ve been to a doctor in years, I couldn’t get coverage before. And the only reason I can do any teaching at all now is because the medical treatment I’m getting now is great, it’s helping me feel better so I can work.” she said.

    Ibarra just got an increase for 2017 under the ACA, now paying $294.06 a month, with a $3 co-pay for the 5 different prescription medications she needs, as opposed to the $800 or $900 a month on the open market, if she could get insurance. “I’m still frightened even though the vote to repeal and replace was pulled,” she said. “ I’m sure they still want to replace it, but with what, I haven’t seen anything that provides the same level of access I have now, plus it is more expensive with less coverage.”

    “Since the affordable care act has been in place in California, I have seen my patients have improved access to insurance and healthcare. They have also been able to contemplate different job options without fear of losing the health benefits. The variety of plans available has allowed patients to look for programs that best fit their needs,” said Dr. Jennifer Grossman, Rheumatologist and member of the Lupus LA Medical Advisory Board. “I am very nervous about the possibility of going backwards to a time where such programs don’t exist. If this happens, our patients will suffer.”

    According to the latest Congressional Budget Office Report, more than 24 million fewer people will have coverage over the next decade if the ACA is overhauled, which again is currently being discussed, 14 million of those alone by next year if new action is taken, Eder and Ibarra likely among them. Without an immediate plan in place to cover those 24 million, they will be unable to sustain their current health status, with little chance for improved wellness, re-gain jobs and input into society. Under the ACA, they are paying less for coverage, getting better quality, more comprehensive, accessible care, resulting in marked improvements in their conditions.

    Both women expressed concern that the perception of the ACA is that “it is some sort of giveaway, which it is not,” and also want those reading this to know they have held jobs, worked hard to support themselves and families, paid taxes and been responsible citizens. Rather, it is their medical condition that prevents them from working full time to get employer sponsored insurance and without their current insurance, all of the progress they have made improving and managing lupus, will send them spiraling backward, and their overall health will regress. Without the ability to get better, sustaining affordable healthcare becomes nearly impossible, thus increasing the cost for all of us.

    “I’ve had a lot of stress over this,” said Eder. “My life depends on this insurance, and if it all goes away, this leaves me up in the air. Since lupus is a pre-existing condition I may not be able to get any insurance at all, then what am I supposed to do, leave the country?”

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    The following is the transcript from a TEDx talk given on March 7th, 2017 at TEDxBergenCommunityCollege in Paramus, NJ. See the actual talk on the TEDx YouTube channel by clicking here.

    Have you ever felt scared and alone? Helpless, hopeless, or worthless? Like everything is suddenly out of control?

    I was in the shower when it happened to me. Water was rushing over my body, when suddenly I started shaking and sweating. Feeling unsteady, I grabbed the clear shower curtain and fell to the floor of the tub. I started crying and sobbing uncontrollably. 

    I was crashing.             

    I had experienced mood crashes before, having suffered through depression and anxiety on and off throughout my life, but nothing like this. I mean, this was a full on crash from outer space to the depths of the earth. It was scary. I was a wreck. I was inconsolable. I couldn’t breathe. I honestly felt like I was dying. On the floor of my bathtub. With my 6-month-old daughter a few rooms away.

    I needed help urgently. So I grabbed for my cell phone, but when I went to dial 911 I accidentally took a picture, and then another, and then another. The corner of the room. A cracked mirror. The ceiling.

    And the strangest thing happened. I started breathing a little easier. Suddenly, the tears slowed down. It was miraculous, or at least it felt that way. I wasn’t healed, but I could imagine getting up and getting dressed. I could imagine calling my therapist to figure out what the heck was going on.

    There were a lot of things I didn’t understand about what was going on that January day, but there was one thing I knew for sure... When I picked up my baby that night, and when she looked up at me with those big brown eyes, I knew I couldn’t leave her. I knew I couldn’t miss her life.

    So, I had to face it head-on, whatever it was... depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder – all of the above? This was life or death, and I wanted to choose life. I just didn’t know how.

    Thankfully I had a therapist I trusted. So for about a week straight I talked to her for long periods of time while I was in crisis. And there was something we really connected on… and that something was photography, and those pictures from the bathroom floor. She was a budding photographer and was starting a photography class, and I had studied photography. I was a photography major at Ithaca College and I had actually started my own photography business.

    So what she had me do was she had me follow along as she went, and I did the photography assignments that she was doing for her class, and that gave me purpose in my extremely dark days.

    And it got me out of my house, even if that was just around the corner. Even if that was just to the end of my driveway or just outside my door. And we used those photos in my therapy sessions. They gave me a voice. They allowed me to express my thoughts, feelings, and emotions when I couldn’t do so with words at that time.

    They helped me to express my dreams...

    My fears...

    Even my nightmares...

    They allowed me to express feelings about abuse I had experienced, and not having a voice...

    And feelings about mania and confusion...

    It was a long way from the shower floor back to a somewhat balanced state. It took a couple years, and to be honest I haven’t quite made it there, but it’s not for lack of trying. And I’ve tried a lot of things, not just photography. I’ve tried doctors, medications. I’ve even been hospitalized a few times, where I’ve tried magnetic and even shock therapy, ECT. But I must, if not for me, for my husband and my daughters, now two of them. Because they mean everything to me. And I made a decision. And that decision was that ending my life was and is not an option for me, and I make that decision again each and every day of my life. And I will continue to make that decision, and I will continue to try, and I will continue to use photography as a tool during my darkest days.

    But let’s go back... Join me if you will, back in 2012, in the months following my crash. I spent a lot of my time in my bed. So let’s go back to my bed. On one of those days, I decided to visit a site called, and for those who do not know, it is a wonderful platform for making blogs. I wanted to make a blog that would be a collaborative blog where myself and other people affected by mental illness, both themselves and through people they love (because there are so many of us), could come together and have a place, a safe place, where we could create, and we could put our photography and our stories, and support each other and feel less alone. And by putting our stories we could raise awareness and fight stigma.

    I wanted to call it Broken Light Collective, because so many of us feel broken, but there can be a beauty in brokenness, and we can share this beauty and spread the light. A light of hope, a light of inspiration, a light of healing. In the words of my favorite band, the Beatles, “images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes, they call us on and on, across the universe.”

    The first image ever posted on the Broken Light Collective was a self-portrait.

    My head in my hands, with words written upon my arms. Words of pain and words of insecurity. Words such as... Fat. Vulnerable. Humiliated. Hurt. Unworthy.

    Almost immediately, the comments started coming in, and people started sending their own photos and their own stories to post on the site. And then more people started sending their photos and stories, and more people. And it continued to grow, and grow. And pretty soon it didn’t feel like just a blog. It felt like a community. And the community grew, and the community grew...

    And that Broken Light Collective community now has over 50,000 people, contributors and followers, from 181 countries around the world!

    But it’s not the scale of our movement that’s most amazing to me, it’s the messages we get. It’s the emails. It’s the Facebook and Instagram messages, about the daily victories...

    “I would not be out of my room if it wasn’t for Broken Light. It has changed my life.” -Colin

    “The two photos you posted from me, wow, I don’t fully understand the magic it worked, but you publishing them lightened my load emotionally. A lot! It’s as if being connected via your blog was the final step in my healing. Both issues - the dissociative disorder and the battered woman syndrome - have improved greatly. THANK YOU for being there.” - Mary

    “I just wanted to quickly say thank you, because I have been wishing something like this existed. I feel like I have come home.” -Jen

    Broken Light Collective has become a home to so many creatives. We support each other through the lows and through the highs. We get to know each other through the photos and the stories that we share.

    We cried together with BPD as she lay in her hospital bed with her head in her hands in the Middle East contemplating her existence...

    We empathized with Kait as her diagnosis changed from Major Depressive Disorder...

    to Bipolar Disorder...

    And we cheered with Brandon as he overcame anxiety and self-harm, and he went to college where he started a peer group that was inspired by Broken Light Collective and the experience, so he could share with other people the experience he’s had with Broken Light...

    In 2014, Broken Light Collective became a 501(c)3 non-profit to expand our efforts and mission to continue raising awareness and fighting stigma. Our first live exhibit was in New York City at the Fountain House Gallery. It was an inspiring 7-week exhibit called “From Darkness to Light” that featured the work of 37 of our artists with mental illness from around the world.

    Since then, we have had exhibits, pop-ups, and talks across the country, from New York to Texas to California.

    Now, here are some of the faces of Broken Light Collective. You can see the struggle, but you can also see the light shining through.

    It’s as if they’re saying it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be exactly who you are as you are. You are enough. You are worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of help. Because mental health is as important as physical health. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

    Because 1 in 5 of us is affected by mental illness in a given year. Look around you, 1 in 5, that’s a lot of us. And every day, each and every day, there are about 121 suicides. That’s over 44,000 in a year, in America alone. We need to do whatever we can do. Whatever we can to help support each other and save lives. We need to use whatever tools we can. And photography and Broken Light Collective those are tools we can use to support each other and save lives. Lives like these lives. Like your lives. And my life.

    I will continue to use photography therapeutically, whether I am coasting or crashing, and to encourage other people to do the same. To see beauty in the world around us, especially when we’re surrounded by darkness.

    And with that, I welcome you all into the world of I hope you find beauty and comfort. And if you are so inclined to do so, I hope you will pick up a camera or your cell phone or anything and create, and if you would like to, you are welcome to submit.

    But before we go, I want you to take a moment and really think…

    Have you ever felt scared and alone? Helpless, hopeless, or worthless? Like everything is suddenly out of control?

    YOU have the power to take control. With a camera and with Broken Light Collective you can take control. You have the power to fight darkness with a lens, to fight stigma with your hands and with a camera. Using your voice, and creativity, YOU can change your life. YOU can change the life of others. YOU can change the WORLD,

    one photo at a time!

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    The clutter of opinion around the Dana Schutz Whitney Biennial painting “Open Casket” is like embers that have found a source in which to maintain an inferno. In the heat of this ongoing moment, the discussion itself becomes the topic, taking precedence over the artwork and the contexts in which the painting was created and presented.

    When considering a controversial artwork, whether one seeking to bait headlines or one subject to unpredicted reaction, sometimes it is best to locate and consider the merits of an opposite artwork. Finding an opposite artwork to contrast to this picture can bring the discussion back on the thing that will outlast all protests, actions, “takes”, socal media posts and the inevitable careerist symposia: the actual artwork. In this exercise, the wonder and potential liberation from the ordinary that art offers us can be better measured when the things that are absent in one artwork are achingly present in the other. Can the thesis survive an encounter with its antithesis?

    Imagine the riveting solo show by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle “The Evanesced” at the California African American Museum as possibly the opposite artwork from Schutz’ “Open Casket”. Schutz, a white woman, has painted an abstracted version of an iconic image of black trauma that was a catalyst in propelling the civil rights movement forward. Hinkle, an African American woman, has painted expressionistic images of anonymous contemporary black women who have disappeared with many, it is feared, having been kidnapped and murdered. Hinkle paints the horror of not knowing a specific trauma yet knowing specfic trauma is being perpetuated. In a sensitive curation, CAAM’s deputy director Naima Keith places large, almost life-sized portraits of vanished women, leading us to a back wall hosting a seeming infinity of smaller, but no less intense, renderings of the same subject… the nameless, and here sometimes shapeless missing.

    Schutz has the comfort of sixty years separating her from the gruesome murder of Emmett Till and, as evinced by the title of her piece, investigates from the perspective of a mother (a point she reiterated in defending her picture to the attacks and protests it has engendered). The context of Dana Schutz’ race has been debated ad nauseum, but in contrast, as a black woman, Hinkle delivers the pictorial equivalent of the Phil Ochs ode, “There But For Fortune Go I”. If Schutz meant for her Till portrait to carry forth the image of that murder into a different medium - and the jeremiads about her motives in doing just this have been downright unfair and border on the self-serving - she cannot evade the scrutiny of having made a prop out of the whole Till epic.

    Painting’s capacity to mythologize is its conceptual strength, but with great strength comes great responsibility. One can see that the aim of the Schutz piece is to avoid caricature, but she falls short of any impact that the infamous documentation of Till’s actual open casket did not already convey. Bringing nothing new to the subject she unwittingly made herself the subject, hence the endless contextualizing of the picture as inextricably linked to its author’s whiteness.

    Ever the opposite, “The Evanesced” gives viewers what contemporary painting is best at delivering. Hinkle’s ambiguous subjects are concretely defined by their fate as the casual expressionism of her brushwork evokes the anonymity of the subjects. She expertly marks what might be trauma with spatial composition that vaguely illustrates what also might be movement. We see the subjects as present yet evasive. They are both both form and concept. Alive and yet ellusive, they are concretely evanescent.

    To nail a concrete paradox is a masterful accomplishment not every artist will come close too in their lifetime. Schutz reached to make an epic pictorial statement and failed. The punishment in the press for this failure is not what painters need to see. Risks need to be taken, and therefore encouraged, or painting is just the home decoration wing of the entertainment-industrial complex. Hinkle meanwhile delves into the invisible horrors right in front of us all and creates work that avoids exploitation, balancing the tragic with the poignant. It is too bad the firestorm of scorn aimed at Dana Schutz cannot somehow be transfigured into accolades for Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle.

    “Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle: The Evanesced,” curated by Naima J. Keith, runs at the California African American Museum in L.A.’s Exposition Park until June 25.

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