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How The Arts Can Occupy Main Street

Take the Movement to the Next Level:

How the Arts Can Occupy Main Street


Cathy Pagano



The Occupy Wall Street movement has shown the world that once again, America’s police use force and violence to block peaceful protest.  Perhaps because of this, a broad spectrum of the population agrees with the general principles of the Occupy Movement. We need to build on that support.


We can do that by growing the Occupy Movement in new ways to keep people aware and awake to the issues in a peaceful way.  The OWS movement, though only months old, has already taken its first steps, like a hero child who is wise beyond its years.  Peaceful protest is a powerful stand to take in the eyes of the world, especially with images of police violence in everyone’s awareness.


The great thing about a peaceful revolution is that we can creatively make our points by using our intelligence, humor and artistry.  Whereas violence is pretty much the same wherever it is practiced – hurtful, divisive and destructive – peaceful creativity is original, inspirational and unifying.  As things begin to turn violent, we can bring down this military-industrial complex with creative action.  


Our resistance movement can disappear for a time and come back with new and better ways to oppose the system.  There’s a certain romance to that, one that can capture the collective imagination.  The question on people’s minds will be, “What will they do next?” and it will keep their interest fixed on the great issue of our times – who is entitled to the world’s wealth.


We need to build support to foster a change in our national and global policies and in the economic system which holds all the other pressing issues of our times hostage.  The economic injustice of unfettered capitalism prevents us from moving forward on the most important issues of our times: healing the environment, social justice, war, economic opportunity and poverty.


These are some of many issues that are contingent on how we deal with the world’s Wealth.  Should wealth that comes from our common resources be managed and used by the few (1%), or should it benefit the many (99%)?   The most important issue we face globally  is how we use our great wealth in a fair way to reverse the environmental damage our economic system has created.  Because the health of our eco-system is intrinsically tied to our collective health and survival.    


Believe this: scientists say we have 5 years to reverse our carbon output or we condemn ourselves and our descendants to a future with irreversible consequences to our environment.  We’ve known this for years, but Americans especially haven’t taken these facts seriously, sitting back while our corporations spend millions of dollars to block all attempts to reverse environmental damage.


     The one thing we are all dependent on is the health of our environment. The Earth is the living organism we all depend on for Life!  We westerners don’t respect Mother Earth’s cycles and rhythms, but if we really want to change the way humans do ‘business’ with Earth’s resources, perhaps the Occupy Movement can lead the way by listening to Earth’s wisdom.  We’re not just ‘saving’ Mother Earth – She’s saving us too!


     When we take Mother Earth as our ally and listen to her Wisdom, she will give us direction.  Earth’s season of winter is upon us in the USA; it is a time to go within, a time when plants and animals withdraw their life energy from the surface of things and bring that energy to the core of their being, to sustain life over the long, cold winter months.  We can take a page from Nature’s book and withdraw from our very public presence to take a time out to re-assess what to do next.  


This season of greatest darkness is a good time to retreat and disappear.  Step back. Go within.  Rest.   It’s time to celebrate our victory!  This issue of the 99% is in the forefront of people’s consciousness.  People all over the world agree that we have to stop these financial criminals and change the world economy. So, why not step back and leave space for new ideas to be born on how we can take it to the next level.  We need many strategies to take this movement forward into an election year here in the US.


Winter is a good time to grow the Movement.  Like yeast in bread dough, we can go back home and grow the movement to bring in more people willing to take a stand with us. 


Taking the Occupy Movement to Main Street


While the collective protests of the Occupy movement are vital to our revolution, we can re-direct some of our energy to Main Street.  This is not a call to give up the protests, but rather a call to shift gears and take the protests to our local communities – to Main Street: to our Town Councils and Mayors, and to our State Houses.  When you show up at your Town Council meeting and participate in your local decision-making, you are changing the world.
We are a bottom-up movement, and the first way to change society is to convince your own town to make changes.  The more people we inspire in our communities to actively support the Occupy Movement in their own town, the more solid the change will be.

      I have to put on my astrologer cap here for a moment and let you know that the heavens are supporting our revolution with their time-honored messages.  Certain planetary aspects that were active in the 60s have been reactivated again, but in a more stressful way.  And this 60s energy of revolution and evolution is still building, and won’t even come into play until next year.   This is only the lead-up to more stressful confrontations and these energies will be in play until 2015 and beyond.  We have to be ready for the long haul.  But the question remains – will it be a peaceful, creative revolution or a violent one?

How Artists can take the Occupy Movement to Main Street

The great mystic William Blake said, ‘Artists will be the priests and priestesses of the new age’.


One way to creatively grow the Occupy Movement is for Artists to Occupy Main Street – not with sit-ins and protests, but by occupying the minds and hearts of people back home with the real stories of our times.  These stories can counter the corporate media’s stories of fear and divisiveness by showing us how to create a possible future of peace, prosperity and community.

I’d like to call on all Artists to unite and bring an inspiring vision of the future to our people.  We can no longer wait to get a spot on American Idol or to get our film shown at Sundance.  The time is now.   We are being called upon to make a difference.  

Artists can play a vital role in the Occupy Movement if we band together.  More than others, artists must get involved in bringing a new vision to our society.  That’s part of our archetypal job description!   But we have to do it together, as a tribe.   Our art can bring our progressive vision to our local communities, to where people’s lives are impacted.  If artists can unite and work together to inspire people, we might convince people that we can bring about change on a systemic level, and then to educate people on how to do it.

         We need to bring the Arts back from their exile from our collective life and bring people another story – a true story that will wake them from the collective sleep of consumerism and work.  Americans have been distracted by the ‘capitalist dream’ of owning unlimited material possessions; and now that we can’t afford them anymore, Americans need to re-discover what is really important to life.  Artists can evoke that.

        When artists Occupy Main Street by banding together, we can create a celebration, a ‘happening’, a mystery play that will tell the story of our times and of our communities.   This is our chance to focus our artistic vision on the local issues that reflect how our unfair economic system has impacted our towns.  If we create a compelling story using dance, music, the visual arts and acting, and then take it ‘out on the road’ during the summer, we stand a good chance of reaching more people and growing the revolution in a peaceful way.

     The Occupy Movement has helped us band together all over the country.  We’ve gone in front of the world to say “Shame on you” to Wall Street and corporations.  Now it’s time to bring home just how this imbalance in our economic system has deprived every one of their basic rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.  

The Importance of the Right Story

        Facts can horrify us and leave us hopeless. If we really understood the full import of the facts of climate change, we’d probably hide under the bed!  We seem to have lost our directions on how to heal a planet.   That’s why we need stories and the Arts – to give us ideas and inspiration about how to face what seems like insurmountable challenges so we can create something new.
          Artists can create artful magical, mystery plays in our communities this summer.  Our ancient myths and legends contain a lot of wisdom.  They can help us tell the story of our times by relating what people did in the past when they had to stand up to tyrants, to disasters, to change.  When we express what we believe through our Art, we speak in the heart’s language about real issues.  We are more likely to convince people to stand up if their hearts are in it.

            The most important issue then becomes what stories to tell.  Archetypal stories set out the patterns that can help us overcome obstacles. These ‘big stories’ contain symbols that are like magic talismans – they can open people’s minds and hearts to understanding and transformation.

            So the stories we choose as the basis for our artistic vision will shape what we create: stories about inequitable wealth and greed affecting freedom and equality, and creating homelessness and poverty; the strength of group endeavors; about toppling tyrants; about honoring our water, our Earth, our desire for Peace.  The theme should revolve around what is happening in your community – water issues, food issues, homelessness, pollution, foreclosures, education/ children.  Find the issues and then find the archetypal stories that speak to that issue.


It’s time for Artists to take up our archetypal purpose – to be the visionaries of the future.   It’s time for artists with a vision to go into our local communities  - performing in libraries, at festivals, at artistic venues like First Fridays - to give our people the chance to hear this alternative story of hope and possibilities and to give them tools to create political change.  Otherwise we leave them at the mercy of our corporate media’s story of fear and control.  

            We need to focus all the energy that we’d expend by occupying Wall Street and put it into creating this ‘happening’, this mystery play, this traveling school for freedom.   Let the Muses inspire us to tell our ‘one story’ - the story of all of us together.  

            Let’s get our acts together and do it! Who knows?  This might be our destiny this lifetime – to wake our people up from their collective slumber.
How to Structure Your Artistic Council

Here are a few ideas on how to get the ball rolling.  

1.            You need a council of 6 people – 3 women/3men – to create the structure.  6 is the number of balance and harmony between masculine and feminine energies. Two triangles intersecting and creating something greater.  In Mathematics, Six is a unitary perfect number, a harmonic divisor number and a highly composite number, which means it’s about balance and harmony.

2.            Composition of Council needs to include:  1-2 Wise people as spiritual guide and group healer – ritual needs to be part of this endeavor;  an Archetypal storyteller/ mythologist; a Director to make sure the whole thing gets coordinated; representatives for dance, music, visual arts, acting, fire spinners, etc.; an activist who’s been working on the issues.

3.            Become a tribe.  Be strong and work together.  Your creativity will blossom if there’s no ego involved.

4.            Winter:  work on creating the Story/Stories.

5.            Winter: go to your Art Councils and see if you can get money for your projects.  Or find other sources of funding.

6.            Winter: **Most important - set up your venues for the Summer where you’ll perform - local libraries, local concerts venues, festivals, political gatherings etc.

7.            Spring: have some smaller venues you can ‘test drive’ parts of it at.  Art galleries, small clubs and coffee houses, private homes.  Hold fun-raisers to help pay for your expenses.

8.            Summer: take it to the streets

9.            Summer:  You can create this ‘story’ but you also want to be able to hand out information, have exhibits, engage people in a playful way.  One way to include people in the issue at hand: Talk about a law or issue that you’d like to see changed, and then have people there suggest new and better laws to take its place – make it a community effort – with different people adding their insights while someone synthesizes the info into an intelligent statement.

10.         Be creative and share creative ideas with others in the movement.  The creativity can only grow.

Some Archetypal Story Ideas:

  1. Water – Maidens of the Well; the Wasteland
  2. Corruption – The Three Golden Hairs (a young man overthrows the regime, through trickery and strategy, being smarter than the corrupt ones are.)  Any fairy tale of a poor man becoming king.
  3. Women’s issues – The Marriage of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.  The issue of women’s sovereignty.  
  4. Polluted air or water – find a modern sci-fi story and ask the author for permission to create art around its theme.  
  5. Creation Stories – we need a new creation.


Cathy Pagano, trained at the C.G. Jung Institut-Zurich, is a mythic storyteller, astrologer and teacher.  Her storytelling website is www.starofthebards.com.  She can be reached at cathy@starofthebards.com