Here at Current Artisan, we like to turn our attention to many different kinds of artistic pursuits. And oftentimes, we tend to focus on the immediate attributes of artistic work.
How does this song adhere to trends within the genre? How have people responded to a particular art installation? How does this piece compare to the artist’s previous work?
And while all of these aspects are pretty handy when it comes to analyzing art, they don’t really speak to the original intentions of the artist or the broader social impact that an album or a performance or a movie has had on the world.
Here in the United States, it’s fairly easy to focus solely on the surface-level aspects of an artistic career.
American culture, with the help of social media, has come to place incredible importance on fame and the pursuit of fame.
It’s possible now to be famous just for being famous. Actual artistic work has become less and less important.
And in this environment, it can be easy to forget that there is still meaningful work being done. There are still artists and promoters who believe deeply in the power of creativity to have a positive effect on the world around us.
And when we find individuals who are working their hardest to create and promote work that has a positive social impact, it’s cause for celebration.
Today we’ll be discussing just one of these individuals: music producer and activist Paula Park.
Jill of All Trades
Paula Park got her start in the music industry at a fairly young age. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she made her own start.
While still in school, she created the music collective Mais55, which aimed to promote talented Brazilian musicians here in the United States. And don’t worry, we’ll discuss Mais55 in greater detail a bit later.
In her native Brazil, Park directed and produced a documentary, titled Mud Refugees, on the aftermath of a mining dam collapse and the many families it affected.
Above all else, the film was created to raise awareness about the disaster, which was largely underreported or ignored by the country’s mainstream media outlets.
While working on the documentary, she also spent time working for Universal Music Group Brazil, during which she was the youngest accounts executive in the company.
Currently, she lives in the United States, where she has founded the media platform Alien Nation, which largely focuses on bringing attention to immigrant musicians and artists in the United States.
When we met with Park recently, it was difficult to ignore her abundant energy and her genuine desire to create work that has real meaning.
She is fully aware of how the internet and social media can be used to educate and inform people rather than simply distract them from the major social issues of contemporary society.
What follows is just a few powerful excerpts from our conversation with Park, ranging from a discussion of cultural exchange to vital commentary on the need for diverse voices in modern media.
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It’s no real secret that the United States is a bit of a cultural powerhouse. Now, this doesn’t mean that the US is responsible for creating the world’s most interesting or high-quality entertainment.
But it does mean that when the US accepts a specific artist, that artist gains an increased status as a serious creator.
Park realized this early on in her career, and while she had respect for the need to receive acclaim in the U.S., she also wanted to give Brazilians an opportunity to appreciate their own culture, especially among young artists.
“I created Mais55 when I had this realization that I was at a privileged spot to promote my country’s culture and music. One of the main stamps of validation for many Brazilian artists is being accepted in the US. I don’t think this is necessarily negative, but I also think that it is important for us as Brazilians to know, appreciate, celebrate and promote our own cultural richness.”
The group was an opportunity to step back and be thankful for the innovative music coming out of Brazil, a country that has its own lengthy history of melding elements of other cultures.
“The goal of the collective was simply to gather this amazing group of musicians and to have them be ambassadors of Brazilian music in many other countries and cultures.”
Art for the Sake of Awareness
But Mais55 was only the start of Park’s work in the area of art that has a real purpose, and that hopes to have a positive effect on the world at large.
Her next major project in the area was a documentary entitled Mud Refugees, which, as we mentioned in the introduction, focused on the aftermath of a tragic mining dam collapse.
We’ll let Park elaborate on how the project came to pass.
“I decided to create this documentary after one of the members of my collective [Mais55] had written a song about an environmental disaster that had taken place in my country. A mining dam collapsed and released a tsunami of toxic mud. It killed 19 people, buried two entire villages, and impacted over 1 million Brazilians. And ultimately, it appears that this was purposefully silenced by the media.”
And while many would simply respond to this lack of media coverage by complaining to friends or attempting to contact a political representative, Park funneled her anger into a much more productive project.
She decided to create a documentary about the disaster, to be shown to many in her home country as well as people all around the world.
And even the process of creating the documentary gave Park a unique opportunity to gain a close-up perspective of how the affected families are living now.
“The preproduction phase entailed a lot of research on the disaster, and I was totally shocked with the information I discovered. The humanitarian impacts were immeasurable, and yet nobody seems to know about it. Over 1 million people were still suffering. And worst of all, nobody has been held accountable.”
And this is what the documentary has been able to communicate to a very wide audience: that this issue has continued for many, many people, and that real action will be required to approach a lasting solution.
The Impact of Making Connections
From the documentary to Park’s work as a music producer, she sees art, in its many different forms, as a means of facilitating human connection, as an opportunity to speak honestly about insecurities and internal conflict.
“There is healing in being able to express yourself and feel a sense of belonging when you share your vulnerabilities. In a world where people feel entitled to pass judgment onto others, being able to communicate and speak your audience’s language is so important.”
And best of all, art has the power to cross many different kinds of human boundaries, from language to background to socioeconomic status. This is just one of the reasons that art has so much power, a power that can be used to influence progress.
“Art is a global language, available to everyone, everywhere. Regardless of academic background, economic class, or skin color. It is a language that informs and imparts emotion. It is empowering, healing, inspiring and therapeutic to both creators and their public, and a connector for humanity.”
Alienation and Alien Nation
Park has worked hard to find many different ways in which the power of artistic work can be a means for large audiences to question their internal biases.
And in modern-day America, many of these biases tend to surround the hot-button issue of immigration to the United States.
For many, there doesn’t seem to be any real distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Internally, many members of the general public have lumped the two together, and have decided to oppose the idea of immigration in general.
For many different reasons, this is an incredibly negative mindset and one that fails to recognize the past contributions of immigrants to the US as a whole.
But artists can draw power from their popularity, giving them a platform from which they can potentially change hearts and minds. And Park is well aware of this reality.
“It is important for artists to understand the potential power they have, once they gather a following. They have control, thanks to social media, of a platform that directly connects them and their fans. So they can easily shine a light on a topic that is dear to them, social issues included.”
So in typical fashion, Park has put her efforts into harnessing those platforms and educating creators about the cultural responsibility that comes with their power, especially when it comes to the national conversation on immigration.
“Recently, I started a project called Alien Nation, which is a platform that celebrates internationals in the US who are doing amazing work. It is essentially a blog that provides an alternative narrative about immigrants in America.”
It’s a platform that has been sorely lacking in recent years, and one that holds the potential to bring the many positive aspects of legal immigration to light.
All That’s on the Horizon
And don’t you worry, even while all these different projects in progress, Park is not planning to slow down her efforts, not one bit.
We were curious as to what her upcoming projects are and when they’ll be released to the public.
“In my pursuit of continuously bridging the gap between Brazil and the US, I introduced Madame Gandhi to the idea of doing another version of ‘Top Knot Turn Up’, one of her latest releases, in collaboration with two amazing female rappers. I also just signed on as the creative director for CYRRCA, an artist based in Korea, and MC Soffia, a teenage rapper and social activist.”
There’s just no stopping Paula Park, especially when it comes to finding creative ways to introduce mainstream audiences to music that is both culturally and intellectually diverse.
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Paula Park is a music producer and the founder of Alien Nation and the Mais55 collective.
Links to her work can be found here: