One of the things I was able to do while working with the Open Society Foundations was award and supervise a fellowship to David Keefe, an artist, a community organizer, a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, and as well, a friend.
David runs a nonprofit art organization, Frontline Arts, that uses craft, printmaking, and papermaking as a connective practice among veterans and also between veterans and other communities. It’s a way to find commonality in different yet familiar experiences, reclaim and tell personal stories, and build connection toward greater positive change.
What drew me to it – in addition to the importance of breaking the stereotype of a “silent veteran” and to engage, uplift, and support veterans who return home – is the way in which it truly centers connection between people, and focuses on forging this connection as a way to strengthen communities and society as a whole. I believe that the greatest threat to our societies is fragmentation of communities & neighbors at a local level, person to person, and the ways in which this fragmentation drives mistrust, fear, competition, & hostility on one hand and serves to disempower, divide, and marginalize people on the other hand.
Dave’s practice and the work he and Frontline Arts lead is creating a pathway out of this fragmentation. It’s breaking silence & breaking down barriers between people. It centers human connection as a way to make ourselves & our communities more whole.
I’m proud to have supported Dave’s work and to have done this Q&A with him about it, and grateful to OSF for publishing it after my recent departure.