Four local artists from diverse backgrounds discussed the power of art as a form of activism at an event on April 26 at the Issaquah YWCA.
Missiongathering Issaquah hosted the event in partnership with the Highlands Council and the YWCA. The artists were a part of a panel discussion about race, equity and social change. The event marked the beginning of Stand Against Racism Week in Issaquah.
Artists Wynn Adele, Leleita McKill, Kay Tarapolsi and Earnest Thomas talked about their experiences with discrimination based on race, religion and sexuality. They each shared stories about using their art to provoke conversation in the community about inequality.
For example, Tarapolsi, who is a Libyan American artist, said people treated her differently after 9/11. Tarapolsi does quilling, which is a form of ornamental craft work using strips of paper. She says one purpose of her art is to promote positive images of Arab culture.
McKill, a photographer, does work that focuses on fashion, art, people and other projects. Her photos aim to encourage and honor diversity and people who are underrepresented. As an American woman of color, McKill strives to lend her voice and share her perspective in the Seattle area.
The other artists spoke about how their work examined issues such as gender, sexuality, community awareness and ethnicity.
The lead pastor at Missiongathering Issaquah, Brian Carr, organized the event and moderated the panel. Carr said the organizers of the event wanted the theme to be activism through art because art is a relatable subject.
“We wanted to utilize the medium of art to talk about racial justice issues,” he said.
In an interview after the panel, McKill said she wanted to participate in the event because she appreciates the work of the YWCA.
“I heard YWCA. I heard art. I heard activism. I heard let’s try to fix racism as best we can,” McKill explained.
According to McKill, a lot of the artists in the Seattle area are politically minded.
“I am just trying to find space to share my perspective and to kind of be a part of the collective narrative of the people that are alive and creating right now,” McKill said.
People who attended the discussion seemed enthusiastic about exploring the role of art in activism.
“Nowadays people seem to be energized, they seem to be more inspired,” said David Hall. The 30-year Issaquah native found the subject matter to be interesting during these times.
During the discussion, artist Delton Mosby was working on a painting in the same room. He explained that not all his work has an activist motive. According to Mosby, he likes to paint hummingbirds because they don’t have a race.