The Visible Hand

Hand

Much of my pragmatic (as opposed to moral) argument for deep focus on community engagement is of the “invisible hand” variety. (Thank you Adam Smith.) Economic, cultural, and social forces will inevitably, but without direct action, change the landscape to such an extent that business as usual in the arts will eventually become unsustainable. The area where such pressures move from the invisible/indirect to the visible/direct is in public … [Read more...]

Making Meaningful Connections

Helicon-IrvineConnectionsReport

The Helicon Collaborative and the Irvine Foundation have partnered on a "hit it out of the park" report addressing substantive engagement. Making Meaningful Connections presents research into the most effective practices in efforts to engage with diverse communities. (I felt this way before I saw that Building Communities, Not Audiences was listed in the bibliography.) In the introduction they make the case that engaging with new communities is … [Read more...]

Civil Rights Museum

CivilRightsMuseumImages

After attending the Americans for the Arts Convention in Nashville last month my wife and I went on to Memphis to explore another city that we had not visited. As part of that trip we went to the National Civil Rights Museum. (On a personal note, I had not registered the museum's subtitle "At the Lorraine Motel" so when I arrived I had the breath knocked out of me seeing "the balcony.") Coming so soon after the conference session I discussed in … [Read more...]

The Self-Centered Pursuit of Diversity

Nashville

In my last post I reflected on the 2014 Americans for the Arts Conference in Nashville. I concluded by mentioning an important session on diversity and promised a follow-up. There is much discussion (lip service and otherwise) of and occasional work toward diversity and inclusion in the arts industry. One difficulty is that much of the support infrastructure in the arts is connected via metaphorical superglue to the white monied establishment. … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts (2014)

Nashville

Americans for the Arts held its annual conference in Nashville last month. As always, it was a chance to catch up with long-time colleagues, make new friends, and delve into the issues facing what I call the "arts establishment." I had the pleasure of helping facilitate a gathering of researchers in the field in a discussion of latest trends, needs, and issues. The bottom line was that as young (relatively speaking) as the nonprofit arts industry … [Read more...]

Diversity Definitions

The Arts and Science Council in Charlotte has been involved in some serious work to promote diversity, access, and inclusion. I attended a session at last June's Americans for the Arts conference in Pittsburgh in which Robert Bush, now Interim Director of the Council, described their efforts. In the twenty years from 1990-2010, the population of Charlotte rose from 500,000 to 1 million. In the same period, the city had the among the highest … [Read more...]

In the Vineyards of Diversity

Vineyard

In July, Barry Hessenius posted an Interview with Aaron Dworkin, on Barry's Blog. Mr. Dworkin is founder and President of the Sphinx Organization, "the leading national arts organization that focuses on youth development and diversity in classical music." I was aware of Sphinx's work in identifying and supporting young people of color who aspire to careers in the classical music world. The desire to make our orchestras (in particular) less … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts (2013): I

Pittsburgh

The 2013 Americans for the Arts Convention was held in Pittsburgh earlier this month. I went, with my newly minted Twitter account, intent on communicating about what happened as it happened. Then I discovered I have a learning disability. I simply cannot tweet and process what's happening at the same time–not just the same instant, but the same time frame! (For those of you who have already abandoned Twitter, yes I know I'm way late to the … [Read more...]

The White Racial Frame

[Guest post–second on this topic–by Roberto Bedoya, Executive Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Mr. Bedoya reflects on the need to consider the impact of unconscious racial perspectives before we address diversity policies in the sector.] Before I offer my commentary, I want to give thanks to my peers for responding to my prompt. This inquiry into the perplexities and complexities of whiteness that we see working in the cultural sector … [Read more...]

White Is Not Transparent

BlankCanvas

Earlier this week, Roberto Bedoya challenged me to unpack "Whiteness" as it applies to the arts as a foundational exercise for conversations about diversity in the arts. As "just another liberal white guy," I find that more than a bit intimidating. However, I agree with him that the very natural tendency for society (at least majority society) to see (often unconsciously) the status quo as "how things must be" is detrimental to social health. And … [Read more...]