Updated: Mar 30
This year, in Summer 2020, we have the honor and privilege of celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Art2Action Inc., an organization that creates original theater, interdisciplinary performances, performative acts and progressive cultural organizing.
I have the good fortune to serve on the Art2Action Board of Directors and to benefit from Art2Action’s ethos of collaboration, dialogue and mutual investment.
In 2014, well before I joined the Art2Action board, my home organization, Su Teatro, co-commissioned Outside the Circle (along with Pangea World Theater, Minneapolis, MN; Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, San Antonio, TX; and the National Performance Network) a play written by Art2Action Artistic/Executive Director Andrea Assaf and CARPA San Diego’s Samuel Valdez, and directed by Dora Arreola (Artistic Director of Mujeres en Ritual Danza-Teatro, and a a founding member of Art2Action).
Outside the Circle examines the concept of unrequited love, from the perspectives of a queer woman and a man with cerebral palsy.
The play probes the depths of our human experience with love and rejection, and brings our assumptions (people with disabilities are angels without the same sexual desires, biases and hang-ups as the rest of us) and contradictions (newsflash: being queer doesn't automatically make you understand the challenges that others face) out into the light.
Outside the Circle asks us to consider who belongs, what belonging means and what it is we belong to. To be inside the circle is to find acceptance and to have the right to participate. To be outside the circle is to be othered, exoticized and excluded; it is to be denied the right to participate.
Commissioning and presenting Outside the Circle was an important opportunity for Su Teatro to explore questions of inclusiveness in new ways, to support artists and to nurture relationships. It taught us to build community on the ground and to appreciate the complexity and dimensions of the community we serve. As a result of our residency with Art2Action, we began to think more carefully about the space we are creating and what it says about who belongs and who gets to participate. We began to think about belonging differently. Belonging requires both agency and the power to co-create. But true belonging means we are not just creating for a specific community, we are creating a space for everyone, by everyone: we are creating space to hear and to see each other, a space that nurtures engagement and participation.
Participation is at the heart of movement building. Changing systems begins with us: how we change ourselves, how we operate with integrity and hold each other accountable. We begin with ourselves and the relationships we build with one another; from this process, cultures emerge.
Art2Action has forged a collaborative culture. It is a compassionate space where we acknowledge each other’s stories, where we are heard, seen and cared for, where we hold each other accountable with gentleness and grace. We are creating a participation hub that over time, will constellate with many other hubs. We all land inside the circle, and with Art2Action’s ongoing work, the circle is expanding.
Tanya Mote is the Associate Director at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center where she has practiced for 23 years to become a better grassroots fundraiser and an all-around organizational development and social movement geek. She facilitates and teaches in Colorado for Colorado Creative Industries and the University of Denver, and nationally for the Wealth Reclamation Academy of Practitioners (WRAP), an organization working in partnership with a national network of social justice grassroots fundraisers to re-contextualize how social justice organizers think about and practice movement resourcing in the U.S. Tanya serves on the Board of Directors for Art2Action, in Tampa, FL; D3 Arts in Denver, CO; and Working Narratives in Wilmington, NC. Tanya holds a PhD from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Her areas of study were comparative politics, Latin America and human rights.