What does a better world look like?
In an era of pompous personalities in power and borders erected between our shared humanity, this is a question many of us are asking ourselves. Not only are we scrutinizing what a better world could look like, we are wondering how we can contribute to its formation. There must be a way that I can reconnect families at the border. If only I could plot out the perfect health-care bill. Maybe I should drop everything and go repair houses damaged in the latest hurricane, or wildfire, or volcano eruption.
Maybe I should.
But, for so many people, dropping everything to volunteer their bodies to the latest headline in the news just isn’t a feasible option. We are inundated through the media with causes to support and people who need our help. But, we often lose sight of the opportunities for change right outside of our own windows.
Retired medical doctor and artist/volunteer/community activist Saad Ghosn’s annual SOS (Save Our Souls) Art show and “For A Better World” (“FABW”) compendium — a tome which gives voice to local writers and artists reflecting on the state of the world — highlight the changes that can be manifested when creative communities come together for a shared cause.
The 15th edition of “FABW” was released this May, and collected the work of 73 poets and 37 visual artists contemplating themes of social justice, violence, evil, love, and peace.
Artists range from widely-published local authors to high school students, creating space for a broad slice of perspectives. I was lucky enough to be tapped as an illustrator for this year’s edition of “FABW,” and got an insider’s look at how Ghosn’s annual anthologies are put together: Not only does the final product create a perceived community of like-minded artists, Ghosn’s whole creative process is about bringing local artists into contact with one another. As poets submit their work, Ghosn reaches out to local artists to collaborate alongside them to illustrate the book. It is a striking example of how a local community of creatives can be introduced to one another.
“In a world still prey to injustice and wars, these artists weep for the dead, revolt for the oppressed, denounce unjust societal wrongs, advocate for the poor, the homeless, and the neglected, reject violence and its consequences, fight for the battered environment,” Ghosn’s foreword to the 2018 edition of “FABW” states.
“They also challenge the prevailing societal values of materialism, consumerism and domination and speak for a change in values towards love, compassion and forgiveness. They paint a beautiful world. A world of diversity and equality, where peace is based on truth, justice, and kindness. With their lucid song, these artists also confront the evil in this world and promise to stand up for the fight. Their lucid song is an appeal to each of us to join in and make a change; it seeks to eliminate our isolation and loneliness and invites us to hold hands and share in the same well of strength and energy for a better world.”
Accompanying the release of this year’s “FABW” was the retrospective exhibit, SOS Art, at The Art Academy of Cincinnati displaying rooms full of art from the last 15 years. Over 200 Cincinnati-based artists — visual, literary, musical, performance artists and even school children — were represented. And, more than 1000 visitors and participants took part in the kaleidoscopic, sociopolitical event, according to a statement from SOS Art.
Selections ranged from humorous illustrations of the Kool-Aid Man busting through a border wall and stencils of cops wielding flaccid penis guns, to pieces questioning issues more seriously. One image of two men hugging was adorned with the text: “I’m sorry you feel that way. But I am concerned by how wrong you are about everything. Is it okay to hug a Nazi?”
What all the artistic visions shared was an urgency for change — a staring contest between the evils of the world and the potential for human growth. Luckily, the emphasis of SOS Art is zeroed-in on that potential for human growth, represented by the consistently blossoming collection of politically-charged artwork in the SOS Art collection.