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Diversity, Equity, and Engagement in the Arts: A Case Study in Change


Collage detail courtesy of Intermedia Arts.

Source: Sheila Regan

Intermedia Arts has spent the last year aiming to turn talking points about diversity and community engagement into action. They've changed how they select and program their offerings, who's at the table when organizational decisions are made. It's progress, artists say, but we're not there yet.

Outreach. Inclusion. Engagement. Equity. Diversity. These are all words thrown around a lot in the nonprofit world, but what do they really mean? For arts organizations, in particular, especially arts organizations that aren’t culturally specific, saying you’re going to engage with communities of color isn’t necessarily the same thing as having an equitable relationship with diverse communities. But what about those organizations that are going beyond aspirational talking points and taking meaningful steps, actually changing their operations, so that the infrastructure on which they’re built reflects an intention to be more inclusive?

Last year, Intermedia Arts drew some criticism surrounding their Creative Community Leadership Institute, a training program that develops and connects arts leaders in the local scene. The Institute is expressly intended as a place to foster and encourage innovators working in different communities, but, last year, a number of those selected for the program raised some pointed questions — about the curriculum, about how the program was structured, and about whether participation actually and tangibly benefitted the diverse communities who participated.

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