¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 In February 1936, hundreds of artists signed the call for the American Artists’ Congress (AAC). The brief text urged artists to consider their own economic plights, attacks to their freedom of expression, and lessening support for artists by the state and art market. Asking artists to realize that “the cultural crisis is but a reflection of a world economic crisis”—the call to action charged them to come together against the growing threat of fascism, at home and abroad, and its global impact on living standards, civil liberties, workers’ organizations, science and art, and peace between nations.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The AAC was an organization founded as part of the Popular Front of the Communist Party as a vehicle for uniting artist in projects helping to combat the spread of fascism. Non-sectarian, the American Artists’ Congress of the 1930s was fighting a singular enemy—fascism—by taking up a host of issues including class struggle, censorship, and the lack of state and market support for artists. While the AAC dissolved in the early 1940s, it remains an important predecessor for contemporary artists concerned with social change.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Global and local sociopolitical orders have shifted from the 1930s. Contemporary artists concerned with social change face the polemics of plurality: there is not a monolithic target, but roving targets, from looming global climate change and global wealth inequity, to the prison industry complex and gun violence, to gender disparity, and the intrusion of surveillance into the private realm.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 In the collaborative spirit of artists from the AAC, the co-organizers of a 2014 Artists’ Congress have co-authored a contemporary draft “Call” and invite your edits and additions. While inspired by the Call of 1936, this is not a gesture to redeem communism or recuperate the charge against fascism. With this Call, we invite you, as artists and thinkers across fields, and as a growing group of stakeholders, to help us identify the looming “emergencies” of our day around which we might band together. In the collaborative spirit of the historical Congress, and our current project, this is a means to collectively craft a call to action for what we should stand for today. We invite you to insert your own perspective. This Call will be shared during an Artists’ Congress gathering on May 17 in Chicago and online.