Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Diversity Question in the Arts Blogosphere

Every once in a while, I'll get a boring email inviting me to be part of some kind of blog salon on a particular topic, the idea being that all the bloggers who are contacted will write about that topic during the assigned month. This never seems like a good idea.

But this month, it's as if there was a subliminal email sent to a crew of bloggers in the arts suggesting a salon about audience diversity, and how/why to move in that direction. The posts are meaty and the commenting is robust. So this week, I want to honor this conversation with links to a few of the great posts and a couple other sources that inform the way I think about diversity and engagement.

Admittedly, many of these posts exist in a bubble of inter-referencing (which I am only exacerbating with this post):
  • Clay Lord weighs in on the data about audience representation in Bay Area theater, and the ways that a majority culture can oppress its own value systems on others. A rare blog post that combines personal narrative with statistical charts. 
  • Diane Ragsdale responds with some thoughts on how funders could influence these issues, whether they should, and how organizations might respond. She references my recent post about the Irvine Foundation's new approach to arts funding (which includes, but does not solely focus on diversifying audience engagement).
  • Barry Hessenius follows up with more thoughts on "coercive philanthropy" and how and whether funders make change possible in the field.
  • And then Ian David Moss pulls it together with an interesting question about whether we're too focused on how to support and shift institutions instead of how to engage and empower individual people/audience members.
In some ways, what's more interesting is the world beyond this bubble. Some events:
  • Aaron Dworkin, a pretty amazing individual in many ways, is putting together SphinxCon, a conference happening this weekend in Detroit with a focus on "empowering ideas for diversity in the arts." You should go and tell us all about it.
  • I truly wish I could have attended Facing Race, which sounded like a completely awesome and transformative event this past fall in Baltimore. My sister attended, and I kicked myself about 87 times for not knowing about it or getting out there.
  • And Carlton Turner runs Alternate Roots, another incredible artists' organization with a focus on social change that runs an annual conference/camp/experience which I have heard is mind-blowing in North Carolina.
And a couple museum-specific sites and resources:
  • I've become intrigued by the Incluseum blog, which is run by a group of museum folk in Seattle with a mission to encourage social inclusion in museums. Their interests run the gamut from issues of socio-economic inclusion to race, gender, and physical and mental abilities.
  • I recently met Jada Wright-Green, a museum professional who runs a site called Heritage Salon that looks at issues and possibilities in the African-American museum community. Jada is passionate about supporting the future of African-American heritage institutions and working to diversify the museum field as a whole.
  • The Center for the Future of Museums maintains a good list of top ten resources on demographic change as related to museums. While few are prescriptive in offering suggestions on how museums might meet the challenge of a changing population, they provide good research fodder for starting points.
  • And my favorite, unsurprisingly, is Elaine Heumann Gurian, who has written powerfully about the architecture of inclusion and exclusion in museums. Even amidst a sea of new books about museums and social change, I find myself reaching for Elaine's classics above all others.
Where do you fall in this conversation, and what resources have pushed your thinking about diversity?
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