TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: this year’s conference programming on Activism and the Arts

By on Friday, 10th March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

If you follow any of your favourite musicians on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen them post to social media about causes that are near and dear to their hearts. Many artists, like recent SXSW alumnae Natalie Prass and Lissie, go a step further and elect to donate proceeds from their work to charitable causes, contributing to both fundraising and awareness. Conference programming at SXSW 2017 has taken notice of this kind of artist activism, recruiting an eclectic variety of speakers and panelists to highlight the trend.

For a bit of background, the SXSW 2017 Music Conference and Festival officially begins on Monday the 13th of March but the Interactive and Film portions of SXSW start ahead of the weekend on Friday the 10th. The intersection among the three conferences, where participants from all three disciplines come together, is known as Convergence. One of the seven Convergence tracks at this year’s SXSW is titled Social Impact, and its conference sessions are intended to “highlight innovative ideas from the creative industries that are contributing to a better, more equitable world.”

Cecile Richards press photo

On Friday the 10th of March, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards and Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp will start the Social Impact proceedings what will likely be a heavily attended conference session called ‘Activism, Allyship and Where We Go from Here’. Another popular choice will likely be ‘The Celebrity (Activist) Industrial Complex’ on the 13th of March, in which panelists Anne Helen Peterson of BuzzFeed, Elisa Kreisinger of Refinery 29 and Glen Weldon of NPR will tackle the question: “Do celebrities have a responsibility to use their power and privilege for good?”

Two sessions more specific to music activism will happen on Wednesday the 15th of March. ‘Creating For a Cause: Music for Action & Awareness’ will “discuss currencies and methods of giving to communities, organisations and nonprofits”, as well as building philanthropic partnerships and creating cause awareness. In a session on the ‘Healing Power of Music’, Chris Funk of The Decemberists will join a panel which focuses on delivering music therapy alongside medical services to hospitals and vulnerable patient populations.

Chris Funk press photo

Under the auspices of the Music Conference proper, sessions in both the Music Industry and Music Influencers tracks take aim at artist activism. In the aptly-titled Talk 20 session ‘Artivism’ on the 17th of March, artist, educator and activist Malcolm London will engage audiences by sharing original poetry and discussing his work with community arts organisations and social movements. Management teams for Usher and Panic! At the Disco will appear on the panel ‘Cause Marketing for Musicians in 2017’, scheduled for the 16th of March, where they “will share how entertainers are building measurable support for amazing charities while growing their brand affinity.” Extravagant Records founder Weldon Angelos, joined by rapper Snoop Dogg and attorneys Vikrant Reddy and Mark Holden, will comprise a panel titled ‘Artist to Advocate: Fighting for Criminal Justice’ on the 18th of March. Angelos will talk with members of the music community gathered in Austin about his unjust prison sentence for a minor drug crime and will also discuss “how artists can work together to achieve lasting reform.”

Weldon Angelos press photo

Activism and the arts have evolved from a fringe concept to one of the key components of conference programming at SXSW 2017. Given the current political climate here in America, we expect to see a variety of in-person examples of social activism during the music conference and festival in Austin next week. Keep an eye on TGTF for our ongoing coverage; as always, any information we bring to you about SXSW 2017 is subject to change. You can stay up-to-date on the official SXSW schedule by clicking here.

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