By Joyce Lee and Arpita Aneja
March 17, 2017

“We’re in a moment where funding for the arts is in danger, and it shows how urgent it is and how important art is to speak about society,” says Christopher Y. Lew, a co-curator for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which runs through June 11 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The project is an exhibit displayed every two years that surveys the current state of American art.

Lew and his co-curator Mia Locks researched this year’s collection during the presidential election. As a result, the turbulence of the current political era is clearly reflected in the art represented in the exhibit.

In this video, Lew talks about how the artists he worked with expressed fear and anxiety about American politics. But they also displayed a sense of hope and an urgent need to take action in the future.

The first draft of history is often written by artists. This interview with Lew is part of TIME’s new series, State of the Art, which explores how artists of all kinds are addressing America’s political upheaval.

Write to Arpita Aneja at arpita.aneja@time.com.

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