The Artist as Citizen
October 02, 2018, 4:00pm

The Artist as Citizen

For those who are encouraged and inspired by my art, you make what I do worthwhile – – thank you, dearly. For those who tell me to “keep my mouth shut,” here is my response. It’s as true today as it was nearly 25 years ago when I spoke these words:

President Kennedy was the first to suggest the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts. Well aware that art can be controversial, he concluded, “[the artist] must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role.”

I continue to believe it is an indispensable one – that artists, especially those who have had success, and have won popularity in their work, not only have the right, but the responsibility, to risk the unpopularity of being committed and active. 

So, until women are treated equally with men, until gays and minorities are not discriminated against and until children have their full rights, artists must continue to speak out. I will be one of them.  

– Speech at Harvard Kennedy School, 1995