Kim Poole, a soul fusion performing artiste believes that artists and art culture is a key component to sustainable development.
The founding fellow of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) is bringing Artizen 2022, an annual international conference on art for social change, to Nairobi.
Starting from November 4 to 7, her aim is to bring artists to the decision making table to use their creativity and innovation to teach every sector about design thinking while giving them permission to be traditional artists.
“It has been our goal to encourage other sectors to respect the artist class. Artists have been relegated to the margins of society. Artists have always defined our reality through youth culture or popular culture. If we collectively acknowledge their work, then artists will never starve again,” says Kim.
The Teaching Artist Institute started in 2014 in Nigeria. Kim Poole wanted to help bring back the girls abducted by Boko Haram from their school.
She called every promoter in Nigeria and did a tour for three months, partnering with the Rotary Club to raise funds for the families to aid in the search for their daughters.
When she got back home in the US, egged on by a conversation by her drummer on “doing something and not just extended talk”, she thought of creating something where artists are continually engaged in social transformation.
TAI encourages traditional artists to find an area of society they are passionate about and to create a project that blends with that.
“Now we do tours, study abroad and cross-cultural exchanges, and advocacy. We are working in Uganda, Tanzania, Liberia, Ghana, The Gambia, Jamaica and The US. We do a summer learning art exchange program to bring college students to Tanzania to teach them the art of possibility. This is so that we are not always playing catch up by going to sectors that are full of people who were trained not to respect art and then trying to help them unlearn. Let’s plant seeds from the beginning,” says Kim.
Kim cites the Artizen conference in Gambia in 2018, when she talked to President Adama Barrow about the importance of bringing artists to the decision-making table to jump start the country.
The conference is not just aimed at conventional artists. Citing the griot (West African storyteller, singer, musician, and oral historian), Kim says that they were valued for the protection of a society’s legacy and not that they were entertainers.
Any innovator who comes up with an idea is a creator and artist, be they in tech, finance or any other sector of the economy.