Producer's Welcome Speech Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival Silver Spring, MD, April 23, 2010

Silver Spring, MD, April 23, 2010

Producer’s Welcome Speech
Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival

Good afternoon Silver Spring, Maryland. I would like to welcome you to the first ever Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival. My name is Tom Block, creator and producer of this signature Festival. We’ve brought together over 400 artists from 50 nations, presenting more than 200 art/activist events over the next 50 hours.

I would like to thank the political speakers this afternoon, who are here representing our honorary committee of local and national political leaders, a list which includes Senators John Kerry, Richard Lugar, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Bernie Sanders, human rights hero Congressman John Lewis, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chris Van Hollen and many others.

This coming together of our political leaders with advocacy artists highlights that what Amnesty International represents, and what these artists are fighting for in Amnesty’s name, is at the heart of the American dream: human rights and justice for all. These universal values are enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America. These artists are the “strict Constitutionalists!”

Let’s not forget that we are here because Amnesty International needs our support. To help Amnesty is to further the values that make any country great. So please take a moment, visit the Amnesty International table, join the growing number of people that are working for these fundamental human values and sign up as a member of this vital group.

This gathering of an international collection of artists in our small, suburban community might seem surprising. After all, a lot of people – when they think of an international art event – think of Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. God knows I do! But for this one weekend, at least, Silver Spring, Maryland is the heart and soul of the art world.

And this isn’t just any art. This art, indeed, this whole festival, is driven by passion, not dollars. We have built the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival fueled only by the desire of these participating artists to save the world with their creative energy. It is positive, it is beautiful, it is tough – it is sublime.

Over the next 50 hours, in nearly 40 venues throughout our little town, you will see theater, dance, film, music, visual art, workshops, readings, panel discussions, installations, spoken word and other creative expressions, all stemming from the heart and soul of the artist, and all, in their own way, trying to help heal the world.

A saying has it that words spoken from the mouth never get past the ears; but words spoken from the heart, enter the heart. Prepare your hearts, my friends, they are about to be deep in conversation with some of the most caring and beautiful art that your heart has ever met.

Let me close with a thank you. Obviously, it takes some very committed individuals to pull off an international art event on virtually no budget – and there are many thank you’s that should be said. However, there is only one thank you that must be said. This whole event has emerged from the love and energy of the artists themselves – their willingness to donate their time and energy, in some cases self-funding trips from Europe, Central America, California, Texas and around the United States.

So now, I would like ask all of the participating artists who are here with us this evening to raise your hands. Let’s show them how much we appreciate their life-long efforts, as well as what they are sharing with us here in Silver Spring this weekend. Please join me in a raucous show of appreciation.