Moving Beyond Diversity Toward Inclusion in the Arts

In November, with the support of Bank of America, ArtsBoston brought Carmen Morgan, founder and director of artEquity, to Boston to lead a discussion on issues of representation, equity, and artistic freedom in our shifting artistic community.

Carmen’s visit was timely, taking place the week after the election. With emotions running high for almost everyone in the room, Carmen took some time to unpack the outcome of the election with attendees before steering the group of 45 arts-makers through a series of inclusion exercises. One of these exercises called Yes, No, Maybe provided an illuminating conversation on challenging questions and statements like “Is it appropriate for a person without a disability to play a role of a person with a disability?” and “An emphasis on diversity may lead to a lack of quality in the arts.” The answers, like the questions themselves, proved to be as complex as one would imagine. As arts-makers, how can we make sure to continue to challenge the old ways of thinking, creating art, and doing business?

Carmen implored the group to ask how racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of oppression operate in each of their organizations. It is important to name it in order to make the necessary changes we need as a sector. Carmen made it explicitly clear that now, more than ever, arts-makers will be called upon to take charge and be agents for social change for the greater good of our community. It is important for us to show up, take a stand, and “Lean In faster.”

So where do you begin? How do you tackle these issues within your organization? Carmen offers expertise from her years of work as a community organizer and social justice warrior to help organizations take that first step. Best Practices for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives provides a quick overview and plan for organizations:

  1. Establish your Organizational Value
  2. From there, assess and clarify your goals
  3. Create a Plan
  4. Create/Revise Policies, Systems, and Structures
  5. Ongoing Reflection and Adjustment

It is the same plan ArtsBoston is following internally and externally as greater Boston’s arts service organization. We are not just providing capacity building opportunities for our member organizations to engage in this work such as Programming Toward Inclusivity or the Network for Arts Administrators of Color (NAAC Boston), we are also making sure that as an organization, we are held to the very same standard. ArtsBoston is committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the arts which means a change in organizational values to reflect this change across the organization.

For other important resources from Carmen Morgan and artEquity, check out Organizational Traps that Prevent Equity and Inclusion and Strategies that Support Equity and Inclusion; and the difference between Valuing Diversity vs. Moving Toward Inclusion as an organization.


Beyond Diversity: Inclusion in the Arts

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