By Raye Weigel
Asher Meerovich, bandleader of local band Tomato Dodgers and founder of Art Takes Action, is helping to spearhead a group of activists to create an event that will act as a safe space for art. One of the ultimate goals, Meerovich said, is to “take a stand against hatred.”
The group had its second meeting Nov. 20. Approximately 10 people sat in a cozy circle and discussed which issues were important to them and how they can make this event a reality.
“The forces of hatred right now are very united,” Meerovich said. The group seemed to envision an organization that will host events that feature a unique group of artists and emphasize the importance free speech in wake of the recent election.
The results of the recent election are dangerous to a lot of people, Meerovich said. Therefore, it is necessary to “show solidarity to the people who are in danger and create a space where they are less threatened by the world.”
Meerovich said the funding and location for the prospective event are both in the works, since he does not want the group to pay any of it out of pocket. He said he has a significant source of funding planned and a venue that is interested.
The group is also deciding how much to charge for tickets because they want to be able to donate proceeds to a to-be-determined cause. However, they need to strike a balance so the ticket price is not a barrier for those who want to attend but cannot afford to pay a high price.
Another challenge the group may face is how to deal with hate speech, violence and other confrontations. Meerovich said he wants to hold a reaction training workshop for members of the group to learn how to deal with conflict in a non-escalating way.
“We have to draw a line because there is a line between saying what you want and causing people to suffer because of what you’re saying. I think it’s very clear what is hateful and what is not,” Meerovich said.
However, he made it clear the event should not be mistaken for a benefit concert. The “content of the event should indicate we are trying to take a stand, not doing art like we always do,” Meerovich said. He highlighted that the art produced and shown here would all be part of a dialogue under the greater umbrella of free speech.
The goal of the event is not to bring in individuals who are famous or well-known because it’s supposed to raise the voices of the voiceless and give a platform to those who don’t have a space.
“What can artists do to make voices not being heard be heard?” Meerovich asked.
The most difficult part, Meerovich said, is to “cater this event and future events towards attracting audience of people most directly affected by the theme or focus of the event.”
The goal is to have more than one event. Meerovich said, “Morally, we should doing them forever. Realistically, I’m imagining like four to six. I know the big ones are going to take a lot of work and it’s hard to keep people wanting to work for free.”
Their plan is to develop several committees, including hospitality, community outreach and legal issues, among others. These committees will work together to build the event and help it run smoothly.
At the last meeting, the group discussed possible themes featured artists could focus on: education about local government, how people can get involved, defending journalists and why we don’t talk about women’s health.
They also discussed the importance of ensuring the venue is as accessible and inclusive as possible, including making sure the venue will designate gender neutral bathrooms.
Charles Scheider, a former student at Montgomery College, said the most important booth to him would be about mental health. He wants to get rid of the stigma around mental health: “It’s important that people expand their understanding of how different people live their lives.”
“I’m really focused on the idea that raising good kids is going to be the most surefire way of improving the world.” Shannon Shaner, a senior animal science major said.
“I joined this as a way to do anything and everything that I can.” Shaner said being a facilitator for this event will give her a chance to focus on multiple causes at once.
At the end of the meeting, Meerovich seemed optimistic. “I think it’s gonna work. I think we’re going to help people, and I think we are bringing people together who would otherwise be working independently … I think we’re giving people a way to get together but not compromise their individuality.”
“Art wouldn’t be shit if there were no audience,” Meerovich said.
Featured Photo Credit: Art Takes Action, a group of politically and socially motivated artists in the college park area, meet in “The Void”, a local home turned concert venue. (Josh Loock/Bloc Photographer)
Raye Weigel is a junior multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.