“ARTISTS EXPRESS things that people don’t have words for; that’s why it’s so important to have them in justice spaces.”
With that neat answer, the panelist sits back in her chair, satisfied, bedazzled nails glimmering in the stage lights. I roll my eyes, then immediately feel guilty. You know you’re in for a rough night when you find yourself side-eyeing a Tony Award-winning actress—at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, no less—but I can’t help myself. Her answer smacks of the vague, self-congratulatory art-speak I hear on a regular basis, in which people tell me their work is a “metaphor for capitalism,” without any kind of explanation.