For all of the chaos and “clusteriness” of the times we’ve been living through recently, my curiosity, optimism, and creativity have been sparked by the potential to make big, positive changes in a compressed period of time.
Codified through the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Overton Window of Political Possibility is a model articulating this potential. Within policy systems, ideas within the Overton Window are widely accepted as safe for policymakers to support, while ideas outside of the window are risky. This has implications for when and how people push an agenda or drive a movement.
Forces can also unpredictably shift the window, making untenable and unfathomable positions momentarily palatable among the masses or influential few. Right now, surging pandemics of COVID-19 and racism are forces causing a shift in the window, one that has made our team at CultureSource feel empowered to rapidly accomplish good work outside of standard practice and policy.
In our process of mobilization, four things—among many—are inspiring and fueling our efforts.
1.Walmart: Earlier this month the company announced a partnership with Tribeca (known for the Tribeca Film Festival) to convert their store parking lots into drive-in movie theaters. These stores are located throughout urban, suburban, and rural communities, and this unexpected initiative joins traditional activities of grocery-pick up and movie watching in a non-traditional, highly accessible context likely to mutually benefit all parties.
2. Restaurants: Many of my friends and family own restaurants, and in my up-close view of their operations, I have been impressed by their ingenuity and resiliency. They kept their doors open (with support from government regulations) through strategic staffing and physically-distanced service innovations. Menus have also been reworked, including new or expanded take-out options, and some enterprises are even planning for expansion as dream locations become available in volatile real estate markets. Cheering the success of restaurants is particularly satisfying because they contribute to community culture and tend to employ vulnerable populations: recently-incarcerated individuals, immigrants, and of course, artists.
3.Monument Remixing: While some are using the Overton Window to tear down monuments, paint over murals, or erase other visual memories of past injustice, I have gained energy from efforts to re-contextualize historical markers, disarming them of their capacity to taunt and adding new artistic frames and enhancements that help us understand and maximize the potential for symbols of oppression to be changed into more powerful beacons of hope.
4. Social Distancing: Within arts education, there has been an ongoing tug-of-war of music education methods, often between traditional band ensembles and the embrace of contemporary (sometimes digital) means of creative expression. The inability of large, static ensembles to convene as usual now is pushing groups to reimagine where and how they make music. As such, the music education field may make a large leap in a single school year—leaps already being seen in professional ensembles—and that possibility is exciting.
As you think about capitalizing on ephemeral windows of opportunity, please let us know how we can be a partner to you in your thinking by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post was inspired by one of many conversations between Omari and his friend and colleague, Jean Cook.