Activist Ginger Dunnill of the “Broken Boxes” podcast spoke with us about art, activism, and getting started
Anyone who has listened to Ginger Dunnill’s Broken Boxes podcast knows that she really means it when she says the project’s mission is to “hold space” for people whose voices are often erased, silenced, or forgotten. On the podcast, she interviews indigenous artists and activists in a style that gives the speaker plenty of space to tell their story. She also used the podcast to elevate the voices of those protesting against the pipeline at Standing Rock, recording live from the camp to make sure correct information was being broadcasted.
This August, she curated a Broken Boxes art exhibition during the 96th Santa Fe Indian Market to showcase the work of artists who had been interviewed on the podcast. Money raised through live paintings from the opening events went to indigenous activist organization Honor the Earth. In the middle of hosting three different events for the exhibition opening, Dunnill graciously made time for an interview with us about how she got started, why having a voice is important, and about how we can find the courage to pursue our own projects.
HelloGiggles (HG): The Broken Boxes website states that one of the goals of the project is to “counteract the isolation that is often created for artists by our contemporary fetish culture.” Was that one of the reasons you, as an artist, began the project, or was it a need you saw in the wider arts community?
Ginger Dunnill (GD): I started the podcast project because I was pregnant with my second son, and felt like I needed a way to stay connected to the community, and to continue to do work that could have a positive impact on our youth. Being pregnant brought up a lot of triggers for me [in terms of] isolation; as a young person, I felt very out of place and wished I had resources and advice from people creating art that was outside of the box, so to speak. The podcast was one thing I could think of that was accessible to me to create with very minimal resource/money, and which in turn could be accessible to others without them having to pay for the content.
HG: The podcast interviews are a lot more open than most interviews, and they focus on self-care and practical matters of the artistic life as much as on the art itself. I see that as the breaking of a box as well, since artists are often discouraged from speaking of those mundane but important things. What are some lessons you have learned about that part of the artistic life?
GD: It is so important to remember that we are all human. That we have to practice self-care and respect for ourselves to be strong in the world, to do the real work. And we need to begin to share the things that work for us in relation to self-care with our communities, to help have strong networks of healthy human beings who are awake and activated. My partner and I are both artists, sustaining our family through creative practices, and I recognize how much work goes down on the back-end of the actual making of the art. How you must be physically and mentally healthy, must understand the system enough to either dismantle it or play the game.
I understand that a lot of young artists may be taken advantage of by problematic and old approaches to marketing artwork, so I feel it’s crucial we share with each other how we exist as artists, how we make space to take care of ourselves and our communities, how we teach ourselves and what we learn from our elders who are artists. Now that we have access to technology…it is a privilege and duty to share what works and what doesn’t with our youth who struggle with isolation, trauma, and may not have access to humans they feel comfortable accessing information from in certain ways.
HG: You have used Broken Boxes podcast and this exhibition to support Standing Rock and other activism-based projects. What connection do you see between art and activism today?
GD: I believe that everything you do in your artistic practice should integrate a form of giving back, and that is powerful activism. We must remember never to simply profit off of a struggle or cause or be “inspired” by it, if a movement moves us to create art or content, we must give back to that place and those people who are on the frontline, or from that community.
I did many rebroadcasts from FB live feeds during the height of Standing Rock. I also traveled up there to bring supplies many times and recorded a podcast with folks on the ground. My husband and often-collaborator Cannupa Hanska Luger is from Standing Rock, so that movement became extremely personal for our family, and we took an all hands on deck approach with engaging in that movement. We both, as artists, utilized all tools we had access to for sharing information, including the podcast.
HG: Creating and maintaining the multi-faceted Broken Boxes project is a big undertaking requiring a lot of courage and a daunting amount of work. What advice or encouragement can you give other people who have a big idea but are afraid to begin?
GD: It’s scary when we start to acknowledge our strength and use it, as femme-identifying humans. I try to take that fear and use it as adrenaline to push forward and create the space I see lacking in the world. It is scary in real ways to be seen, and there are real threats to women/femme/queer-identifying folks in our communities, so it is very real to be afraid to speak out. And we have all these boxes, made by ourselves and by our society. I think, right now, our greatest strength is in riding the edges. Overlapping and finding how we can come together to stand up against the real monsters such as patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy, and to create solidarity with folks who are our allies. We don’t have time to wait for the right time. We need all our young, strong, vibrant humans to start working on creating safe in-between spaces right now, so we can come together and move forward together.
My advice is to just begin, and if the work feeds your spirit, you will not be able to stop and you will be sustained if you trust your work and yourself. Don’t be afraid to be without money, because if you are truly doing the work that is important to your people and the planet, the money will come, you will be sustained, the work will carry you. Do not be afraid of your brilliance. We need you now, share your magic!
If you happen to be in Santa Fe, the Broken Boxes exhibition will be up at form + concept gallery until October 28th, and the podcast is currently partnering with Unceded Voices for a series of interviews with indigenous street artists. Visit, look, listen, get inspired to share your magic!