When I first happened upon Heartland Arts KC in the midst of an Instagram scroll, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was ecstatic to have found an organization in the Kansas City community that combined two of my biggest passions: the arts and public policy. I knew that Heartland Arts KC could be a place where I could not only grow my own artistic skills, but also collaborate with other artists to uplift the Kansas City community by focusing on specific policy issues. This year, the HE[ART]LAND Fellows are examining the causes and effects of houselessness and how the Kansas City community can do more to advocate for/with people experiencing houselessness.
Being a HE[ART]LAND Fellow has opened my eyes and allowed me to see the practical ways in which creating and performing can bring about change on a community level. My research and work has led me to interview those that are working to end houselessness, hear firsthand from folks experiencing institutionalized poverty, and connect with my community during workshops and performances. I had always understood the connection between art and politics: art as protest, art as social commentary, art as political critique, art as political propaganda, etc. However, I had never thought about the potentially life-giving relationship that could exist between art and public policy, especially within the mission and vision of Heartland Arts KC.
On the surface, arts and public policy could not seem more different. Art can be associated with expression, imagination, color, innovation, and idealism. Public policy seems bogged down by the stereotypes of protocol, bureaucracy, power imbalance, and brutal realism. However, my time as a HE[ART]LAND Fellow has shown me not just how much art and public policy have in common, but how inextricably linked and mutually beneficial they are. The best public policy serves the public good by utilizing collaborative efforts and direct action of community members to imagine and create a more just, equal, inclusive, and abundant world. Likewise, the best art engages people, makes them see from new perspectives, amplifies empathy beyond one’s own experience, and envisions how things could be different.
My hope for Heartland Arts KC is that we will foster spaces of authentic connection where community members can engage with art, ask tough questions, and feel empowered to make a difference.