Pierce Freelon's art-based activism keynote centers around the question of what happens when you merge art with activism. The lovechild of that holy union, which Freelon affectionately refers to as 'artivism,' began as a project that he and his colleague Stephen Levitin (otherwise known as Apple Juice Kid) created, titled 'Beat Making Lab.' The project was originally conceived to be a course offering students three credit hours to learn how to "make beats."
Moving forward, Freelon and Levitin wondered what would happen if they planted the artistic seed of the Beat Making Lab into an activist community. Their musings lead them to collaborate with Yole! Africa's annual Spiff festival, an event that gathers creative people in the name of conflict resolution. Their 10 day program encouraged a cultural exchange that created an entirely new genre of music and subsequently fostered an on-going dialogue.
From that experience, Freelon and Levitin partnered with PBS to turn their project into an innovative web series that documents their attempts to introduce the 'artivism' seed into different communities. Of course, where there is cultural exchange, there is the possibility for cultural appropriation. Freelon ends his lecture by reminding the audience that effective collaboration is about listening, not imposing.