Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
I am a long-term resident of San Francisco. Therefore, unfortunately, I am well aware of what it looks like for a place to lose a large portion of its artistic community. Over the last two decades, the creative class has been forced out due to the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing. Even for those earning enough to stay, many have opted to leave because — well, artists want to be around other artists.
This country deserves an administration that values the arts. Coming out of a global pandemic, it is a necessity. It is not an exaggeration to say that artists and the industry that supports them are facing an existential crisis. The concert business has ground to a halt, art shows and galleries have moved online, fairs have been canceled, museums and theaters have temporarily shuttered.
Keeping the art world afloat is not only a cultural imperative, it is a fiscal one too. As a recent article in Hyperallergic pointed out, the creative industry employs 5.1 million Americans and brings in $877 billion to the economy annually. Maintaining this ecosystem should not be a partisan issue.
Whether music or film or writing or painting or theater, art remains one of this country’s greatest exports. What would our culture and world look like without John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, The Great Gatsby, Star Wars, Hamilton, Hair, Joni Mitchell, Georgia O’Keeffe, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sopranos, Kendrick Lamar, Keith Haring, On the Waterfront, and Limp Bizkit. Okay, maybe not that last one.
As both a senator and our vice president, Joe Biden has repeatedly taken a firm position on supporting the arts—there is record of his support stretching back as early as 1973. And let’s not forget that the Obama administration welcomed artists into the White House with open arms. Kamala Harris, beginning with her time in San Francisco as district attorney and throughout her term as Senator, has been an advocate for museums and public art programs.
Trump, in contrast, in his attempt to destroy all that is good and unique about our country, for four straight years, has proposed to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The only facet of Trump that has been a net positive is that he has provided boundless inspiration for artists to create work denouncing him.
COVID-19 has forced us all to downsize our lives, to choose what and who we value. As the world slowly opens up, we have the opportunity to decide what we’d like to add back in, both individually and collectively. Art points us towards the future, helps us process and celebrate our past, and all the while reflects back our present moment. I’m confident that the Biden-Harris administration will honor, prioritize, and re-envision what support of the arts means going forward.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to National Independent Talent Organization.
Jordan Kurland is a partner at Brilliant Corners Artist Management and Noise Pop Industries. He sits on the board of art non-profits The Lab, Stern Grove Festival, and McSweeney’s. Jordan recently quarterbacked Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy, which raised over $550,000 for voter’s rights organizations.