Matana Roberts (2013 Grantee)

In 1999, an annual series of commissioned writings on contemporary art to be published in these pages was inaugurated. The following letter continues this tradition.

March 2023


Dearest Artists,

I was so honored to be asked to write this letter to you.

But it’s been hard to write.

My mind, my body, my spirit sits in continual distraction, my neck tired from the various snap backs each new headline brings, my eyes tired from endless scrolling, my throat sore from yelling at walls.

We are living in a time of great turmoil and violence, silent and loud, mostly insane, some of it proud, nothing seems at all dependable, everything changing within the blink of an eye…

At this time I feel we are a collective global trauma body, grasping for ways to heal.

But when I steal a moment to take a new breath, sit still, and really think, I remember our most important dependable asset:


Art survives it all!

No matter the medium, no matter the message, it lives eternal, speaking from graves.

From the creator’s spirit onwards, we are the observers, the archivists, the seers, the seekers.

Lifting that tired fist in the air, pounding on the door of like and unlike minds, screaming into collective voids, the act of creating lives and breathes… and continues despite everything.

As artists, I believe that we have the ability to change the world, push the needle, reformulate minds.

We are more powerful than we realize.

I place this here today to remind you of the importance of community interdependence.

For some of us, making has been easier than others. For some of us, the easy has also come with its fair share of challenges. As much as we need the viewer, the audience, the witness, what we need most is each other.

We are a celebrated and damned class.

We must look out for each other, as every one of our voices counts.

There are systems in place that are allowing some of us to fall between cracks that we didn’t ourselves create. These systems are deadly. And we need to work harder at protecting each other.

It’s time.

It is time to come together in the ways many of our forebears have done, embrace each other, stand proud, cheer, lean in, push forward, one diverse body, many diverse minds, a force for new

ways of seeing, believing, protecting, correcting, and most importantly, moving forward.

Yours in Creativity,



Matana Roberts is a musician, composer, and sound artist. They received a Grants to Artists award in 2013.