Episode 15: Artist/psychotherapist Andrew Purchin at the RNC & DNC
When I landed in Cleveland to be an intern for Bloomberg Politics at the Republican National Convention, I had 14 pages left of Game Change. I didn’t know what to expect, had never been to a convention before, and while the collective media conjecture of a “total sh*tshow,” however amusing, it was not helpful.
That prediction proved accurate for the first 48 hours, then escalated in the final two days, even before Ted Cruz took the stage Wednesday night. It was mid-afternoon when a crowd assembled around the entrance of the Quicken Loans Arena right outside Bloomberg headquarters. I abandoned my laptop and armed myself with a camera, running outside to see what all the commotion was about. At first it was just media, aiming their massive black cameras over each other’s heads and inching closer and closer to the assembling protestors.
Then groups of police, on horses, bikes and on foot, yelling for the press to move back and some sort of liquid was sprayed, forcing those in front of me and behind me to press backwards without dropping their equipment. I ducked out of the way after the man in front of me stepped on my foot. The crowd had grown at this point, but maintained a humble volume. There was no roaring chant, no clear message. I looked around, wondering what the point of this “demonstration” was. I stood on my toes, trying to read the signs placed in front of the entrance.
“REVOLUTION – NOTHING LESS.”
“AMERICA WAS NEVER GREAT.”
It was supposed to be a flag burning. But where was the smoke? Behind me a train of police swept by, escorting three men with three tiered signs. Sporting phrases like “The Pope is the Antichrist!” On their tail was a much shorter man holding up a piece of canvas that had “End the War on Drugs” sprayed in red and black ink.
I stepped back to the sidewalk to try to get a clear shot of what was going on. The masses were evenly matched with police, who maintained all the composure of a statue. Patient but firm, the police sought order in squads of 4 and 6. A loud crack tore a hole in the murmurs and whistles as one of the three-tiered signs snapped and fell two feet from where I stood.
“Go home you Nazi scum! Go home you Nazi scum!” They cried.
At this point, I was just confused. The flag burners were communist and the evangelicals, however dramatic, were far from anti-Semitic nationalists. I learned later that the lady who had attempted to burn the flag had accidentally set herself on fire.
But, on the same street I found a man whose only goal was to bring peace through art therapy to the people in Cleveland (and later at the Democratic National Convention). Andrew Purchin is his name. Some of you may remember the 1,000 artists gathering at the 2008 Inauguration.
He is an artist and therapist and has created The Curious End to the War Against Ourselves to give people an artistic outlet for their anger and frustration. He said he didn’t expect to change minds but he wanted to help change people’s hearts as we head back to work and school. I think he has a unique and timely message. I hope you agree and will listen and watch this episode of Volta Insider.