Cultivating Bravery: A Reflection on Art and Healing

By Elijah McKinnon (they/them)
Co-Founder + Executive Director, Open Television (OTV)
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Healing is an act of bravery. It requires us to look deep into the mirror; peeling back layers to reveal the most intimate parts of ourselves that need a bit of grace, care and love. I believe that art plays such a beautiful role in reflecting the nuance that resides within our pursuit to mend the pieces of our being that we keep locked away. Whether I’m listening to the genre-bending soundscapes of Kelela, consuming the transcendent words of akwaeke emezi or being teleported to another dimension through Kehinde Wiley’s meticulous brushstrokes, art — in all of its forms — creates portals that allow us to see and be seen. 

South African artist and activist, Zanele Muholi, once said “If I wait for someone else to validate my existence, it will mean that I’m shortchanging myself.” As I reflect on a world that has experienced so much grief and loss it becomes incredibly clear how vital it is for creative laborers to cultivate the gateways toward our collective bravery; providing us with the tools to truly see ourselves. Art holds the necessary ingredients that invite us to anchor deeper into our seats as we unpack the elements that we have become too comfortable with hiding. There is so much beauty and possibility created when seeing one’s humanity reflected on the screen or in a museum which is why I’m committed to nurturing the voices, experiences and identities of intersectional storytellers at Open Television and beyond. 

As the Co-Founder of a streaming platform and media incubator for intersectional storytellers, I have the privilege of witnessing artists from around the globe work to heal themselves and their communities through creative pursuits. #BraveFutures, one of Open Television’s core artist development programs, asks filmmakers to imagine a world where joy, care and bravery are centered. Over the course of 48 hours a diverse range of creatives descend upon their city to create a short-film that speaks to the healing power of storytelling. 

Since the programs launch in 2019, Brave Futures has empowered over 100 artists, across five countries and three continents to develop 24 intersectional short-films exploring topics on gender, immigration, body-positivity, feminism, trans politics, race, sexuality, mental health and more. I invite you to explore the brave futures that reside within you and are waiting to be activated with this three-month free trial to the #OTVAPP. The future we are creating depends on your bravery. 
Bravery creates space for us to develop a language around advocating for not only what we need but how we desire it to arrive in our lives. Through my own healing journey, art and artmaking has been a foundational pillar for gaining access to softness, nourishment and refuge. One of the bravest things we can do is honor our truth and create space for us to share the knowledge that we gain from overcoming challenging dynamics. As our world continues to expand and contract, artists are helping to provide the shape, texture and color for emotions we have yet to define. Artmakers have, and always will be one of the primary facilitators of a more brave future.