On Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m., Artists for Nancy, an organization focused on political activism through art in Suffolk County, will present a Zoom panel entitled “Time to Clean House: Get to the Core With Nancy Goroff.”
The online event will present seven artists and activists in conversation with Goroff, a Stony Brook University professor and candidate for Congress in New York’s first congressional district in the upcoming Nov. 3 election. Panelists include artists like Laurie Anderson, film composer Carter Burwell and Stony Brook art lecturer Maya Schindler. Activists like Skyler Johnson, who ran for New York state senate at the age of 19 last year, will also join the call.
Panelists will ask Goroff a combination of their own questions and a selection of those submitted by viewers. Burwell will moderate the discussion, which will cover a range of topics including affordable housing, education, environmental justice, healthcare and immigration.
Goroff, who has served on the faculty of Stony Brook University’s Department of Chemistry for more than 22 years, advanced in the New York primary election in June. Following that election, interdisciplinary artist Tali Hinkis — also known professionally as LoVid — began reaching out to colleagues to form what is now Artists for Nancy. Hinkis described the organization as “an artist-led grassroots group for progressive political and legislative change in Suffolk County.”
“We have musicians, we have visual artists — even within visual arts we have photographers, we have painters, installation artists, media artists — poets, a fashion designer. It’s a real mix,” she said.
Hinkis works “primarily at the intersection of technology and craft.” She performs music regularly, working with analog synthesizers, incorporating “live noise, electronic music, and video.” Past performances have included collaborations with percussionists from Stony Brook University’s Department of Music.
“Artists in some sense are very entrepreneurial,” Hinkis said. “If you’re a professional artist, you need to know how to reach people and build a community – I think that is where arts and politics of our society really intersect. That’s, I think, what makes working with artists so effective for this.”
Since the group’s inception in July, the collective has grown to include artists of many creative disciplines and at various stages in their careers.
“Our group is really solid now and growing,” Hinkis said. “It’s very intersectional in terms of people’s ages and career levels, and it’s really important for us to have representation of different parts of Suffolk County and art disciplines. That’s the large theme — artists as agents of change and participants in society, with the arts carving that place in American culture.”
Organizational strategist Alex Hu, who ran digital operations for Perry Gershon’s 2018 campaign, joined the collective’s efforts in August.
“It’s a really challenging district,” Hu said, referring to New York’s first congressional district on Long Island. “It’s 80 miles long, it’s 20 miles wide at its widest point, and it’s really hamletted, right? So our hypothesis was that we can use art to unify the district.”
Visual artist Christine Sciulli, who curated and produced the panel, worked this summer to develop a series of events for Jeffrey Colvin’s book “Africaville.” The series included a staged reading directed by Andrina Smith at Guild Hall in East Hampton on Aug. 15.
“It was a great way to explore different themes [in the novel] in social activism related to Black Lives Matter,” Sciulli said.
Anderson reached out to Sciulli after she sent the press for “Africaville,” and Sciulli knew she wanted to invite Anderson to be a part of Wednesday’s panel.
“We ended up with a really diverse panel age-wise, ethnicity-wise, background-wise, and profession-wise as well,” Sciulli said. “So we’re hoping to just have some really meaningful, thought-provoking questions to ask Goroff that may actually energize some people to go out and advocate for her.”
Iva Casian-Lakoš, a doctoral candidate in Cello Performance at Stony Brook University and core organizer for Artists for Nancy, said that Wednesday’s event is a good opportunity for students to get involved in politics and learn more about candidates running to represent their county.
“This is a great way to actually see who’s in your community, what matters, and who could potentially represent you,” she said. “People should also know to vote down-ballot. It’s not just a presidential election.”
Casian-Lakoš said there are topics that she is particularly looking forward to hearing discussed on Wednesday.
“I’m Hispanic, I’m Latin American and Suffolk County has a huge Latin American population,” she said. “Also, issues for artists — we’re actually the people who are suffering the worst in the pandemic. We’re the last who are going to return to normal work life.”
She added that she also wants to hear how Goroff plans to lead the district out of the pandemic and deal with climate change.
“I’m personally terrified about climate change,” she said. “It’s an existential crisis and that’s always been something that has concerned me to the core. It’s really important to me that [Goroff] puts this issue on top because no one else is, or not enough people are, and she’s a scientist and can influence others hopefully.”
Wednesday’s Zoom panel will be one event in a series of activities planned by Artists for Nancy leading up to the November election. The group plans to stream a benefit album in October that features “a whole host of musicians, a real exciting group,” Hinkis said.
“It’s been so inspiring to see the power of artistic voices in the county and to see how many people care about the future of our country,” Casian-Lakoš said. “It’s been a beautiful experience to see what people are bringing to the table: the different art pieces, different ideas. So it gives me hope that people are getting into action and doing something, and then influencing others to do the same.”
Students who wish to attend Wednesday’s Zoom panel can RSVP online until Sept. 16 at 9 a.m.