Human beings suffer.
I want it to stop.
I have often wondered why so many good people have such different and divisive opinions. Art As Social Inquiry asks the questions: Are we our opinions? Or are we something more? Then what? What is beyond the emotional charge of our opinions? And how do we get there?
November 2020 Delco Arts! interview
Theresa BrownGold is the painter/writer/performance artist/lyricist behind Art As Social Inquiry. She uses art to start dialog around social issues.
Theresa started Art As Social Inquiry in 2008. Since then she has added performance art and lyric writing to her portrait painting project as ways to further raise awareness about social issues.
The artist has painted over 200 portraits. Her work has been written about in many publications including the Journal of the American Medical Association, and featured on ZDF German television, WHYY public television and other outlets. She has given many talks about Art As Social Inquiry at conferences, college classrooms, churches, senior centers, and other venues.
The artist received the 2011 PA Health Access Network Georgeanne Koehler Activist of the Year Award for her painting series Healthcare in the United States. In 2013 the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare named her stand-out advocate.
Theresa is the recipient of a 2013 Leeway Foundation Art and Change grant. In 2017 Theresa received a grant from the Puffin Foundation. Her portrait Joann was one of six finalists in the Independent Lens "visionary art-making" competition.
Theresa sometimes uses her art to publicly demonstrate in public spaces as a way of bringing awareness to an issue. In 2012 she stood with her healthcare portraits in front of the US Supreme Court and Capitol buildings in Washington DC for five months to underscore the difficulties Americans were having accessing healthcare. In 2017 the GOP ramped up efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The artist responded by attending congressional hearings, and wearing tee shirts with hand-painted messages on them for the House and Senate committee members to see. (No signs are permitted in the hearing rooms.)
Later in life, the artist resumed the art studies she started in her twenties as a Temple University undergraduate. She enrolled in continuing education courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In a former life, Theresa was a playwright. In the 1980s she was a two-time Theater Association of Pennsylvania grant recipient, and a finalist in the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center competition. Theresa served as Villanova's playwright scholar for one year in their master's program. "I miss playwriting. I feel I could write another play now. I left because I couldn't find my way to joy after 20 years of writing." Theresa was also the co-owner of two food businesses for 12 years. (n.b. In 2023 Theresa started writing what she is calling a "spiritual memoir" to be followed by a new play. The writing joy is back)
I want human suffering to stop. We all feel it. We anesthetize ourselves with whatever distractions — activities, acting out, or chemical self-numbing — to not feel our connectedness that exposes omnipresent human suffering. When we stop running from that connectedness, we give ourselves a chance to know our true nature. Peace. Practicing compassion is radical self-love masquerading as giving to others. Art As Social Inquiry is a first step to understanding others’ plights. And a first step to our personal liberation. What happened to somebody else CAN happen to us. When we run from this fact, we are running from ourselves. When we acknowledge others' suffering, we are better equipped to move past our own.
10/29/2011 Theresa takes Art As Social Inquiry to Coffee Party Rally on West Lawn of Capitol Bldg., Washington DC.