Political change doesn’t always come from people in pantsuits and ties. A few Downtown artists formed the Desert Arts Action Coalition, a group that focuses on the role art plays in politics and advocates for rights of women, immigrants, environmental and other progressive issues.
Wendy Kveck, a local artist and arts educator at College of Southern Nevada, is one of the founders. “After the election, like so many others, I was devastated. When I would see my friends, we would talk about it and I realized we were all feeling at loss about what to do.” Her distress was the impetus for her to become politically involved.
Kveck invited a group of 10 artists to meet in her living room and discuss ways they could transform their outrage into something beneficial. “We recognized this was an opportunity to create positive changes in our state…,” she says. The Coalition meetings are a way for artists to stay up to date on what’s going on in the legislature and encourage action. Kveck says the goal is to create tools for communication, information and agency that encourage people to be more active participants in local and state elections.
Elizabeth Nelson, an Absinthe performer, is among the artists involved in DAAC. Nelson uses performing arts to let her voice be heard for all women. “For me the very act of stepping on stage gives a voice, a body, a face to those women throughout history who endured the unendurable so that I can have this freedom. It is a deeply humbling and intensely political act,” Nelson says. She adds that she is surrounded by people who are affected by the policies coming out of Washington, such as deportation and health care cuts. “Our mission is to bring like-minded artists together to affect change in the ways that we can—in small ways and large ways.”
DAAC member, local artist and co-host of the Latinos Who Lunch podcast, Justin Favela, likes meeting eye to eye with other members. “You can be on an email chain about a cause you believe in, but it doesn’t actually have of big as an effect as it does by meeting in-person [and] talking about what you’re worried about and what issues are important to you,” Favela says. “With my art and podcast, I try to give Latinos a platform. The mission of the podcast is to have open conversations, [to show] that we all are different and to not stereotype Latinos into one bracket.”
DAAC has invited state representatives such as Sen. Yvanna Cancela and other progressive groups to educate the community on how to make an impact in politics. They will be participating in the June 10 What Can I Do? resistance expo from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Culinary Union on Commerce Street. The event will bring together other local grassroots organizations such as ACLU Nevada, Indivisible, Battle Born Progress and Gender Justice Nevada to expose the community to these various groups and to teach advocacy tools.
“As artists, we’re creative, and we don’t take no for an answer. A common thread for all of us in this coalition—if the opportunity isn’t there, we create it. We can shape history,” Favela says.