Nearly 25 years ago, Linda Steele and I worked together on the national tour of “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk.” Since that time, we have remained in touch, which is a reminder that collaborations in the fields of equity, inclusion, diversity and community engagement are the catalyst for lifelong relationships.
Today, Linda is the Founder and CEO of ArtUp, a Memphis-based enterprise that uses the arts as a tool for social change in disinvested communities. In 2014, Linda launched the ArtUp Creative Entrepreneurs (ACE) Fellows program, which engages local artists and neighborhood leaders in the emerging field of arts-based community development. The program has received numerous awards and grants, including the Americans for the Arts Robert E. Gard Award, and from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In addition, Linda has a podcast called “Artivism,” which features interviews about the contributions of artists and change makers, both locally and nationally, who are challenging and transforming long-standing ideas about equity, diversity, and inclusion in the arts. This past week, I was honored to be interviewed by Linda, and this link will take you to our 30-minute dialogue.
One of the key points that came up during our discussion is no matter what your educational or professional background, your life skills can be applied to promoting, supporting or engaging with the arts. This is acutely important when it comes to the areas of diversity, inclusion and audience access—your personal commitment and conviction, shaped by your life experiences, have the potential to become the bridge that opens the doors to the arts for all, instead of just for the few who can afford it. This was my life’s journey—from dancer, to lawyer, to arts manager, community engagement pioneer, marketing executive, entrepreneur, author, lecturer and college professor. All of me is “all in” in my effort to open even wider the doors of equity, inclusion and diversity.
I continue to believe that this is a pivotal time in our nation’s history for the arts to take the lead on this critical battlefront for the recognition of equity, inclusion and respect for diversity as America’s core values. After all, our art spaces herald the beauty of difference; they display the wonders of diversity, and they provide everyone with the opportunity to have a shared experience of our common humanity that ranges from tears to joy.
As leaders of our arts communities, I believe this is our mission; it’s time to remind ourselves again to be “all in.”