Pangea honors artist organizers

Ever wanted to know how artist-activists stay inspired to do the work they do? Or what techniques they use to create meaningful change?

This Saturday Pangea World Theater will host artist and activist Carolyn Holbrook for an evening of conversation in front of an audience.

Holbrook is a writer and educator, perhaps best known for founding and running "SASE: The Write Place" from 1993 to 2006. She mentored and encouraged many young writers who have gone on to have powerful voices in the Twin Cities literary scene.

Carolyn Holbrook
Carolyn Holbrook (Photo courtesy of Pangea World Theater)

The event is the fourth in a series called "Q&A: Questions and Answers with Organizers and Artists." Curated by Pangea's Emmanuel Ortiz and Jessica Lopez Lyman, the series seeks to raise up the work of local organizers who don't often get recognition for their commitment to social justice and the arts.

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"A lot of the people are so quiet and unassuming in their roles as leaders, we just want to pay respect as we soak up that knowledge and those stories and pass them along to the next generation," said Lopez Lyman.

"When we asked Carolyn Holbrook to be our guest, she responded 'Why me?' That's a typical response of the type of people who do the work but don’t expect the limelight," Lyman added.

Lyman says the series was inspired by artist talk-backs, which often occur after a performance. "My favorite part was the talk back. There are so many insightful moments, but it’s not often recorded and people are often tired at that point in the evening."

For the Q&A series, guests are asked to bring along five people who are important to their journey. Those people are then asked to contribute questions, both serious and comic. At the end of the evening the audience is invited to join in.

"It’s a way for the audience to engage with these people around their childhood, their views on the world, their organizing tactics. We want to bring the humanity to these people, make them accessible to the community."

Past guests include spoken word artist Louis Alemayehu, artist Ricardo Levins Morales and Transgender activist Roxanne Anderson. Each of the talks is recorded by Line Break Media, and will eventually be posted online.

For Ortiz, who has long been involved in political activism, the arts are a vital tool in raising awareness and creating change.

"There is a gap that needs to be closed between community organizing and political spaces and the arts community and artistic spaces," Ortiz said. "This is all about building relationships."

Tickets to the Q&A are $10 (a suggested donation); all of the money that comes in from ticket sales goes directly to the evening's guest speaker.

"That was a no-brainer to us," said Ortiz. "How can we do this and ask them to volunteer their time? We could easily use the ticket sales to pay for the reception, marketing, etc. But Pangea always pays its artists. We pay out to do this show, but we feel we get back that value in terms of community building."

Saturday's talk begins at 7:30 p.m. at Pangea World Theater in Minneapolis.