Reflections on Dinner Without An Agenda with Kimberly Drew
by Morgan Jerkins
May 12 2016
I have to admit that I was a little nervous of going to the “Dinner Without an Agenda with Kimberly Drew” event. Despite the fact that I’ve been living in New York for 10 months, the place in Queens that I’ve been to was Long Island City and that was for a doctor’s appointment. Not to mention, even though I am a writer, somehow, in my mind, I’ve set up this odd distance between a “writer” and an “artist.” When I write, I do not think that I am creating art; all I want to do is tell a story, a story that I wish someone had told me. The idea of artistry seemed so high-minded but it was these kinds of definitions that led me to being accepted to the dinner so I guess they count for something!
The dinner took place at a small, cozy Thai restaurant in Jackson Heights. I was surrounded by nine to ten other artists whose passions range from writing to music to contemporary art to photography. We went around the table to talk about our artistic pursuits and astrological signs and although we were frequently interrupted by the waiters, it didn’t disturb the overall cordial vibe.
One of the biggest conversations of the night was accessibility. How do we as artists make our work both understandable and accessible to the open public? This discussion was incredibly nuanced because many of us are college educated; therefore, we are trained to think and communicate in ways that demonstrate privilege. If the goal is to disseminate our work as widely as possible, then we as artists have to be careful over our projects and how they are conveyed so that people, both college-educated and non-college educated, will understand. However, not all of us had that same intention. There were some who had concluded that it’s not our job to be widely understandable and accessible because as artists, that focus will take away from what we passionately want to do. And besides that, it’s nearly impossible to create meaningful work if one has all these colliding voices in the midst of that process. I personally found myself oscillating between both ideas, seeing the value in both. I couldn’t walk away with a resolution and frankly, I didn’t want to. The event was called “Dinner Without an Agenda,” which meant to me that there was no format and no order, just creativity. I had a lot to think about, a lot to process and much to digest that had nothing to do with the delicious Thai food.
Since artists are stereotypically known to be intense and/or introverted, it was very nice that we were all able to gather under one roof and be sociable for two hours before we each went our separate ways. I hope that there will be more events like this one in the future.