The International Human Rights Art Festival is a growing initiative to connect artists, activists, politicians, social and religious leaders, and community members through art events throughout New York City and around the world, with the aim of inspiring these stakeholders to create a more positive, caring world. We produce art-advocacy events throughout the year, culminating in a week-long Festival.
We highlight artists whose work is inspired by a social concern, and base their art in artistic quality, personal sincerity, commitment to beauty and an open-hearted vulnerability: advocacy art based in the mystical/activist "I am" or "I should," as opposed to the political/religious/oppositional "you are" or "you should."
We open space for healing, reflection and engagement with those we agree with, as well as others who might seem foreign.
June 18. 7:30 pm (Playroom Theater, 151 W 46th St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10036) Elements - Spirit, Earth, Wind, Air, Water and Fire. A selection of performances which will explore the elements underlying human and universal experience. Presenters will include Davalois Fearon (Water), a Bessie award-winning, critically-acclaimed dancer, teacher, and choreographer born on the island of Jamaica and raised in The Bronx, New York; Sheldon Raymore (Earth), a Native American Storyteller, Visual Artist, Actor, Choreographer, Cultural Consultant, and an award winning Grass Dancer; Nai-Ni Chen (Fire), whose productions take the audience beyond cultural boundaries to where tradition meets innovation and freedom arises from discipline; Oxana Chi (Spirit), a multi-talented performing artist who works as a dancer, choreographer, curator, festival organizer, filmmaker and publisher and Open Dance Ensemble (Air/Wind), has developed a new form of dance choreography in which the movers not only improvise but also conduct each other as the performance unfolds. Tickets and further information here.
September-December (Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd St., New York's East Village): IHRAF will be teaching two courses in spiritual activism throughout the fall, ten sessions each on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 2-5 pm:
* Great Books explores mystical thinking by reading from texts of great spiritual thinkers throughout the ages to spur us on to see our lives, and the surrounding society, from a very different perspective. Every week, we read 30-page excerpts of one book, then spend the class discussing the ideas, as well as how they might impact the manner in which we view the world, and our place within it. Further information here.
* Prophetic Activist Art: Strategies for a Spiritual Revolution offers an intensive workshop to build individual art-activist projects over the semester-long seminar. Classes include an introduction to the specific aspects of the Prophetic Activist Art model (developed by Tom Block out of his own work and published in 2014 as a manifesto/handbook), and then an exploration about how these ideas can be applied to each artist and their endeavor. Further information here.
September 24: We will be treating mental health issues through performance, exploring different ideas of what is and what isn't healthy -- a changing metric throughout human history. (For instance, the greatest medieval mystics would certainly find themselves incarcerated "for their own good" in our era.) Featuring theater by our very own Social Media Maven Alexa Jordan, and including two other acts and perhaps a talk-back. Stay tuned for more information about what, where and exactly when!
October: We will preview our dance commissions which were created for the Festival in November -- five different new dance pieces by some of NY's most happening choreographers and dancers! Time/place TBD and performers to be revealed later.
November 12-18 (Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd St., New York's East Village): The full festival! Stay tuned for more information as we get closer to the time!!
This events series is in partnership with arts and advocacy organizations to raise awareness and action around specific local, national, and international human rights issues. The Interim Events series has received generous support from the Lyn and Norman Lear Family Foundation and the Barbra Streisand Foundation. More on past IHRAF Series can be found here.
Festival friend, participant and supporter Omoyele Sowore is running to become President of Nigeria! Mr. Sowore was born on February 16, 1971 in the Niger Delta region of the country where he was also raised. He studied geography and planning at the University of Lagos and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Colombia University.
While in the University of Lagos, he was deeply involved in anti – military demonstrations and student unionism which ultimately culminated in his election as the President of the Student Union Government where he served between 1992-1994.
In 1992 at University of Lagos, Sowore led 2,000 students in protest against Nigeria’s notorious kleptocracy. Police opened fire, killing seven. Sowore was arrested, interrogated and beaten, and later found out his family too had been put under pressure. But he refused to back down in the struggle for decent education in his country.
For his vociferous anti – government campaigns, he was harassed, arrested and detained for about 8 times in various detention centers. Sowore has remained consistent in his struggle to emancipate his country from the clutches of the racketeers and plunderers. He fled the country to the United States in 1999.
Omoyele Sowore represents different things to different people. To the corrupt politicians, the ruling class and their paid and unpaid apologists, Sowore is a tool in the hands of the opposition. However, to the incorruptible and liberated victims of misrule, corruption and dictatorship, he represents the audacious candle that brightens the scars inflicted on the soul of our nation.
March 5, 2018
IHRAF Producer Tom Block talks with Dr. Bob Lee on BronxNet's "Open" program about the Celebration of Black Men, at the Davenport Theater in midtown Manhattan, on March 12.
January 30, 2018
We are thrilled to announce that Television Producer, National Medal of Arts Winner, founder of the People for the American way and a strong activist for three-quarters of a century Norman Lear and the Lyn and Norman Lear Family Foundation, our strongest supporter to date, has granted us support to underwrite our interim events between now and the full Festival in November, allowing us to concentrate on providing the most passionate, powerful and transformative activist performances that we can muster. Thank you Norman Lear, Festival Godfather!
January 15, 2018
The Dramatist Magazine, official periodical of the Dramatists Guild, published an article in their edition on censorship (January/February 2018) about their important role in finding us a home for our banned program back on October 15. Additionally, they used Festival Producer Tom Block's artwork on the cover of their magazine, as well as in the interior, to illustrate their exploration of censorship.
January 9, 2018
Barbra Streisand has joined the International Human Rights Art Festival as an Honorary Co Sponsor! Additionally, she has donated money to us through her Streisand Foundation. Ms. Streisand is a singular American talent, having won two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Legend Award, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, a Kennedy Center Honors prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and nine Golden Globes! We look forward to sharing more news about Ms. Streisand's involvement with IHRAF in the near future!
January 1, 2018
Documentary from the first International Human Rights Art Festival @ Dixon Place
Award-winning (C-Span Studentcam) high school videographers Dalya Block and Kalina Gibson completed their documentary of the first IHRAF -- check it out here!
December 11, 2017
Video from a Celebration of Women
NYU Broadcast Journalist student Hannah Foley made a beautiful short reportage about our celebration on the 70th anniversary of the issuing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "A Celebration of Women's Power," in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was chair of the drafting committee for the document. Featuring Rachael Sage, Dancing Georgina Project, Marni Rice and Xiomara Evans.
Banner Painting: Woman Shedding Burka by Tom Block