Arts Leaders Speak Out About Capitol Riot

Photo credit: Joe Velez

January 10, 2021—Like many around the nation and the world, I watched in horror and disbelief as insurrectionists attempted to take over the U.S. Capitol to block the certification by the U.S. Congress of the results of the presidential election of Joe Biden. Incited by the outgoing president and his supporters in Congress, the violent mob action resulted in the deaths of at least five people, the takeover of both chambers of Congress, and the ransacking of several government offices.

This year, I am dedicating my blog to highlighting Champions of the Arts who work to create access; boldly address Equity, Diversity & Inclusion issues, and who build social justice initiatives. That’s why I am reposting for the readers of Arts & Culture Connections a letter written about our current national crisis by the staff and board of Nimbus Dance. It is a reminder for all off us of the importance of the arts and our solemn mission to be the invitation and bridge, as they write in the letter, for “peace, collaboration, respect and honesty,” no matter what the circumstances.

The Founding Artistic Director of Nimbus Dance is Samuel Pott, the noted dancer and choreographer who has performed as a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company, American Repertory Ballet, Oakland Ballet Company, and Savage Jazz Dance Company. He established Nimbus, which is based in Jersey City, NJ, in 2005 based on his personal belief in the critical value that the arts can play in bringing together people and communities. The company is renowned for its community engagement initiatives that annually serve more than 7,000 children through in-school, movement-based programs. I also find its mission statement inspiring because the company “walks its talk:” “Nimbus Dance bridges the gap between world-class performance and community engagement by presenting work that speaks to, challenges, and elevates its diverse audiences.”

The following is the Nimbus letter:

Friends:

We are shocked, enraged and saddened by yesterday’s (January 6, 2021) treasonous attack on our nation’s Capitol Building, incited by the President of the United States and by other elected officials lawfully sworn to defend the US Constitution. This madness must stop. Those who attacked the Capitol must be brought to Justice. The levers, methods, and channels of media that perpetuate lies, hatred, bigotry, and racism must be scrutinized and held accountable. For the safety of our nation, and to demonstrate that there are consequences to treasonous, destructive conduct, this President must be held to account for his dereliction of duty and of oath to the US Constitution.

We express gratitude to members of law enforcement who ultimately turned back the violent mob at the Capitol. It is also clear, however, the vast discrepancy in response by law enforcement to this mob, largely white and demanding the overturn of a legally-regulated and state-certified Presidential election, as compared to the often aggressively violent response to protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement, largely Black, Brown and of diverse make-up, assembling for Racial Justice.

We can and must do better. We expect more from our elected officials. As artists, educators, and members of the creative sector, we are committed to building a space in our community for peace, collaboration, respect and honesty. Likewise, elected officials must take responsibility for the impact that their words and actions have on others and on the country; and must rise above the politics of greed, intimidation, and self-serving diatribes. The legitimization of lies, falsehoods, and violence is not the leadership we expect.

There are consequences when our government loses focus on the critical issues and crises our nation faces: while the nation’s attention was glued yesterday to the attack on the Capitol, Covid-19 claimed nearly 4,000 lives that same day, the highest single day total on record. The impact of climate change grows: the NY Times reported that damage from disasters related to climate change rose to $95 billion last year, double the amount of previous years.

Let this shameful and failed insurrection be a reminder of the precious and fragile nature of our country’s freedom and democracy, and a call to reaffirm our work towards Justice, Truth and the building of a positive and sustainable future for our country, planet and fellow citizens.

Yours sincerely, 

Nimbus Board and Staff

As always, I would like to know what you think: As arts administrators and artists, what role can we play to bridge the chasm that has the potential to further impede our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered our doors, the economic devastation that may disrupt the recovery of arts organizations and institutions, and the racial disparities that leave many communities of color feeling alienated from the arts community? Please share your thoughts below.

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