AftA Thoughts 2015: Staff Diversity

DiverseStaff

This is the fourth in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. Diversity and equity were large themes that I’ve addressed twice already. Last time (Self-Perpetuating Boards) I commented on issues of governance. This time, staff diversity is the topic. A highlight of the convention for me was Tom Finkelpearl’s (Commissioner of NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs) comment that despite low salaries … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Self-Perpetuating Boards

DWEM_Board

This is the third in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. In the context of serious discussions of equity and diversity, it was inevitable that my thoughts would turn to boards of directors and trustees. I’ve written several times recently about the conundrum that “fundraising boards” represent in the nonprofit arts world. (Give or Get, Can’t Buy Me Love) Specifically in discussions of … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Equity Watershed?

Equity

Last month I attended Americans for the Arts' convention in Chicago. It was a great event in a great city. As usual, it sparked a number of thoughts about the present and future of the arts and, as has become my habit, I intend to reflect on the experience in a series of posts here. This post considers the conference's remarkable focus on diversity and equity. The number of sessions and the amount of conversation addressing these issues appeared … [Read more...]

They Just Don’t Wanna?

SpoonOutOfPlace

Createquity's May 6 post Why Don't They Come? was a thoroughly researched piece on barriers to arts participation. It addressed the question of why: People with lower incomes and less education (low-SES) participate at lower rates [than others] in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less “elitist” forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting … [Read more...]

Engage Now!

It has been some time since I first hinted that another book was coming out. And I am happy, nay ecstatic, to say, it's here. Engage Now! A Guide to Making the Arts Indispensable is now available in paperback. The ebook version will be out very soon. It's wonderful to have this completed. Two years in the making is a pretty long gestation period. Regular readers of Engaging Matters have seen a good deal of it in draft form in this location. I'm … [Read more...]

Can’t Buy Me Love

The_Beatles_(with_Jimmy_Nicol)_1964_001

In my last post I ended part-way through a rant about the widely perceived incompatibility of a "fundraising board" with true commitment to community engagement or, more broadly, diversity in general. Without repeating that post, the principal concern was the assumption that money was the only or by far the most important resource that board members can bring to an organization. If that is the conscious or even unconscious view of the board, … [Read more...]

Give or Get

Money

I was recently asked, yet again, how an organization can reconcile a fundraising board with the need for greater community representation. Rather than immediately entering "rant mode," I thought about it for a couple of days and realized that there was much more to rant about than I have acknowledged in the past. While this is not a question exclusive to the practice of community engagement, because nearly all arts organizations need to do major … [Read more...]

Overserved

Banquet Proper

Language is a fascinating thing. I just discussed the power of the phrase "historically white theatre." At nearly the same time I heard that phrase I read Barry Hessenius' blog post: Programs for the Underserved; Programs for the Overserved. In  it, he said the following: If we recognize that there are Youth At Risk, Underserved Communities, Disadvantaged Populations, and Marginalized Groups, that is a tacit admission that our main program … [Read more...]

Historically White Theatre

GreekTheater-Kourion

At the closing session of TCG's Audience (R)Evolution convening in Kansas City last month, Rebecca Novick of California Shakespeare Theater made a comment in which she referred to her company (and many of the others represented in the room) as "historically white theatres." Rebecca's phrase (but see note below) nailed a powerful concept and provided a teachable moment for everyone for whom that approach to thinking about the topic of diversity … [Read more...]

The P Word

Privilege

Conducting community engagement trainings in St. Louis in December it was impossible to avoid (not that I wanted to) addressing the question of privilege. This is a huge issue in the arts as substantial portions of the population view the arts establishment as the poster child for privilege of wealth, power, and, of course, race. There is a long history of this association. In Building Communities, Not Audiences, I cited the 1849 Astor Place … [Read more...]