At PEN America, we believe that artists play a critical role in every society: they stimulate innovation, promote dialogue and discourse across borders, they bear witness to inhumanity, reinvent media, articulate cultural critiques, and work with communities to effect change.

With so much power inherent in their creative expression, artists around the world are often threatened and persecuted for the work they produce. In May 2015, Dai Jianyong, a Chinese visual artist, was detained and threatened with five years’ imprisonment for creating satirical images of the Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Nigerian author and activist Jude Dibia, who is openly gay and whose work deals with sexuality, was forced to leave Nigeria in 2014 out of concern for his safety following the passage of stringent homophobic legislation. Attacks on artists around the world are on the rise. In 2016, Freemuse registered 1,028 attacks on artistic freedom across 78 countries, ranging from killings to detentions, nearly double the number logged in 2015.

In response to the ever-increasing need to protect threatened artists, PEN America has launched the Artists at Risk Coalition (ARC). Generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ARC is a groundbreaking 3-year project that will bring together more than a thousand organizations from around the world whose mission is to protect threatened artists, and enshrine the human right to artistic freedom of expression. Acting as a resource hub, and central point of coordination and joint action between threatened artists and the organizations that support them, ARC will elevate the field of artistic freedom as a whole, and increase the visibility of the challenges individual artists face – ensuring they can safely continue their work at a political moment when this is more critical than ever.

To guarantee an expansive reach, ARC defines the term “artist” broadly, encompassing artists who work across every field and medium, including visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, performance artists, and writers.

For more information about the project, click here.

Copyright: National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), Artsfex with Mary Ann deVlieg and Julia Farrington, and Professor Catherine D’Ignazio’s students at Emerson College.