“Beautiful Trouble is essential reading for the socially engaged artist.”Ken Krafchek, Graduate Director, MFA in Community Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art
With the “Fight for Fifteen” campaign for a living wage for fast food workers just starting to get traction in Los Angeles, SEIU Local 721 hosted a Beautiful Trouble training for their entire organizing staff. Trainers Nadine Bloch, Hector Flores and Diana Pei Wu worked alongside BT Training Director Gan Golan and BT Co-Founder Andrew Boyd in what became the launching point for a transformative experience for both Beautiful Trouble and SEIU Local 721.
The multi-day training began with a clutch of stories (some very intense) from front-line workers, and a creative showcase where organizers were introduced to a variety of innovative approaches to message delivery. Several successful art-infused social justice campaigns were picked over for lessons, and a performance by the “Billionaire Rappers” and a duo of sign-spinners really brought the flavor of LA to the room. Journalist Dan Bluemel was there, and wrote, “It is the unexpected, aesthetic embellishments, that often provide images and messages that stick in the public consciousness.”
This insight helped inform the following day’s work, as trainers and organizers dug deep into the Beautiful Trouble toolbox, applying core movement-building frameworks and an expanded set of creative tactics to their ongoing campaigns. Some of their favorites: “know your cultural terrain,” “action logic,” “points of intervention” and “make the invisible visible.”
By the end of the training, organizers were approaching their efforts through a new, creative lens, but it was clear that the work had only begun. They were excited by some of the new ideas they’d generated for creative interventions and wanted to try them out in the field. This is where the transformation for Beautiful Trouble began—because they wanted us to continue to provide creative guidance. This extended relationship — one that takes place after and beyond the initial training — is now emerging as standard operating procedure for Beautiful Trouble with the movements we’re here to serve.
“The training really opened up new possibilities for us. As a result, we’re now developing a new model for our planning that incorporates Beautiful Trouble theories, and we’re making more room for creative action planning so that it becomes part of our practice. Our organizers still refer to it as ‘that beautiful training’.”
—Martin Manteca, Lead Organizer, SEIU Local 721, Los Angeles