Friday, June 12, 2015

The Institute 

of Prophetic Activist Art

                 at Dixon Place

Tom Block (r) with President John Sweeney (AFL-CIO) 
and Executive Director Bill Schulz (Amnesty International)
at the inaugural exhibition of the Human Rights Painting Project 
(Washington DC, 2001).  The project has been exhibited more
than 40 times and raised tens of thousands of dollars 
for Amnesty International.


Dixon Place announces the sponsorship of The Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, a laboratory for activist artists and their projects.  The Institute is looking for 12 activist artists who would like to build their projects during the semester-long seminar, basing their work Tom Block’s manifesto/handbook of art activism: Prophetic Activist Art: Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution  (Centre for Human Ecology, Scotland, 2014).  Mr. Block ( will be running the seminar.
This model utilizes art to infiltrate and co-opt political, business and social structures to inspire specific and quantifiable social change.  Prophetic Activism is based on the idea that true social transformation must come from within societal pillars, and the best manner of implementing change is to influence these power centers.
The eight session seminar will introduce artists to the specific ideas of the model, including co-opting political, business and social energy; partnering with non-profit groups; making liaisons with other artists; utilizing unusual exhibition and outreach methods; “Machiavellian” activism; how to build a project from inception through completion; how to imagine and successfully attain quantifiable activist goals and other specific aspects of a Prophetic Activist Art intervention.
We will be accepting 12 students into the first semester of this program.  Tuition will be $95, paid in advance, for the full program and will include a copy of Prophetic Activist Art: Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution, which will be the “textbook” for the work.
Handbook for the class.  Major  General Charles Tucker
(USAF-retired) said of the work: "Tom Block is a visionary
at the intersection of art and conscience."   Lewis Elbinger,
career State Department worker and one-time political director
at Central High Command (FL) noted: "Prophecy and art
flowing together into contemporary mysticism and mysticism
flowing into activism."

Dates: 2-5 pm at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street, Lower East Side).  We will meet on the following dates:  September 17; then September 21, September 28, October 12, October 26, November 9, November 23, December 7.
To apply:  please send a coverletter outlining the germ of your activist idea, plus any activist art experience you have had; a link to a website or portfolio of images and a resume to:         Deadline for applications August 15.                                                                              

Tom Block: Tom Block is an artist, writer and activist best known for the development and implementation his activist art theory, Prophetic Activist Art.  His activist work includes the Human Rights Painting Project in conjunction with Amnesty International; Shalom/Salaam Project, including abstract and portrait paintings, as well as the seminal academic study: Shalom/Salaam: Story of a Mystical Fraternity, which he has presented at conferences, universities and galleries around the United States, Canada, Europe, Turkey and the Middle East; Response to Machiavelli Project, represented by published book (Machiavelli in America) and two series of paintings and Cousins Public Art Project, publicly installed  in Tempe, AZ and Silver Spring, MD.  He was the founding producer of the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, an international event that took place April 2010 near Washington DC, and the Iraq History Art Project, DePaul University 2010.

Mr. Block has published five books and has exhibited his artwork in galleries and museums more than 200 times throughout the United States and Europe.  His plays have been produced and read over the last three years in numerous venues in New York and Washington DC.  His work has been covered in press such as National Public Radio, Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, American Theatre MagazineManhattan Magazine, Aktuel (Turkey), ABC (Spain), La Nazione (Italy), Al-Ahram (Egypt), Alrai (Jordan) and many other press outlets around the United States and world.

                                                                                                                              Syllabus (tentative outline):

August 31
  •  Outline of the course and general questions about how it will work. (25 minutes)
  • Introduction of participating artists and their history (30 minutes)
  • Introduction to Prophetic Activist Art, with an illustrated lecture of Tom Block’s work, plus questions. (55 minutes)
  • Incipient ideas from each participating artist (60 minutes).

September 14
  •     Building a Prophetic Activist Art Project: Art
  1.   identifying a subject matter/passion
  2.  studying/writing
  3.  creating sketches/maquettes/image idea
  4.  the finished product
  •  Building a prophetic activist art project: Implementation
  1. develop specific, quantifiable goals (e.g.: money and memberships for the non-profit group; press coverage; petitions begun; politicians met with; liaisons created between groups; legislation inspired etc.)
  2.  approaching a non-profit partner
  3. attaching honorary co-sponsors
  4.  finding business interests
  5. looking for other community stakeholders/groups to attach (for aid and volunteers, as well as audience)
  6. identifying in-kind donations/partnerships/artistic partners
  7. exploring infiltration techniques specific to your project: language, advertising, venues
  8. creating ancillary products for outreach as well as fundraising
  9. approaching the media
  10. Machiavellian Prophetic Activism

At an interfaith symposium, along with Dr. S. H. Nasr, head of the Islamic Studies Department 
and Dr. Marc Eli Saperstein, head of the Jewish Studies Program at George Washington University.
September 28  
  •  Discussion of how to approach specific social, political and business leaders, including:
  1. writing cover letters
  2. how to build out from one or two supporters
  3. “give/get” with potential sponsors
  4.  finding the appropriate partners
  5. speaking the language of business and political interests
  6. development of specific in-kind donations from different partners
  7. building a budget
  8.  looking for funding

October 12

  • Discussion of initial partnerships, including the non-profit group, political sponsors, business interests coverletters for the specific projects.  Each artist will get 15 minutes to present their initial work.
  • Sign-up to present the full project idea, including how they are going to build the art, outreach and activist components.  Each artist will have one hour to discuss the project with the full group, including any problems or concerns, hopes, dreams etc.

October 26

November 9

November 23

December 7

Other suggested reading

Below is a series of books which can be read to further understand the ideas underpinning prophetic activism.  This is not an exhaustive list, and has been chosen (for the most part) for the author’s readability.  These books will offer a fine introduction into the ideas which inspired me in developing this model of activist art.

Attar: Conference of the Birds
Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations
Berry, Wendell: Standing by Words
Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy
Buber, Martin: Tales of the Hasidim
Chuang Tzu: The Genius of the Absurd.
Confucius: The Analects
Eckhart, Meister: Selected Writings
Epictetus: Enchiridion
Fadiman, James & Frager, Robert (editors): Essential Sufism.
Heschel, Abraham Joshua: God in Search of Man
Hofstadter, Alfred and Kuhns, Richard: Philosophies of Art and Beauty
Huxley, Aldous: The Perennial Philosophy
Kandinsky, Wassily: Concerning the Spiritual in Art
King Jr., Martin Luther: I Have a Dream
Lao Tzu: The Tao Te Ching
Mandela, Nelson: Long Walk to Freedom
Mencius: Mencius
Merton, Thomas: On Peace
                             Peace in the Post-Christian Era
Pessoa, Fernando: The Book of Disquiet
Plotinus: Essential Plotinus
Rumi: The Masnavi
           Signs of the Unseen
Shah, Idris: Tales of the Dervishes
Shams-I Tabrizi: Me and Rumi
Tolstoy, Leo: On Civil Disobedience and Non-Violence
Weil, Simone: Waiting on God
Wurmbrand, Richard: With God in Solitary Confinement

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