Arts Leaders Offer a Vision for the Future

Image: Used with permission

December 20, 2020—I recently had the privilege of moderating a powerful discussion as part of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Standing in Solidarity social justice series, which featured some of the most visionary thinkers in the world of the arts.

The theme of the program was inspired by and named after Oprah Winfrey’s two-part documentary, “Where Do We Go From Here?” The audience was encouraged to listen to a podcast version of the program in advance of the discussion. Ms. Winfrey’s series featured a broad cross-section of Black thought leaders, activists, and artists in conversation about systemic racism and the current state of civil rights following the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020.

The panelists for the NJPAC program were:

Hope Boykin: An educator, creator, mover, and motivator, Hope has danced with Phildanco! and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she completed 20 seasons. She has choreographed for numerous dance companies, including Philadanco!, Minnesota Dance Theatre, and Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Aaron P. Dworkin: A 2005 MacArthur Fellow and President Barack Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron served as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD). He also is Founder of the Sphinx Organization, the leading national arts organization focusing on youth development and diversity in classical music

Linda Harrison: The Director and CEO of the Newark Museum of Art, Linda has guided the museum through numerous changes during her tenure, including the development of a real estate strategy for the museum’s five-acre campus, turning it into a vibrant live, work and play creative space that will contribute to the City of Newark’s transformation.

Sharnita Johnson: The Arts Program Director at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Sharnita directs the Foundation’s Arts portfolio, which fosters a diverse and vibrant arts ecosystem; creates broad-based public support of the arts, and supports communities engaged in creative place-keeping in New Jersey.

I urge readers of Arts & Culture Connections to listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of “Where Do We Go From Here?,” and then view the NJPAC program at this link.

These are a few of the key recommendations that came out of the discussion:

Imbedding Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access into the DNA of every arts organization, with targets and accountability built into the process.

Continue conversations and discussions about racial equity and commit to becoming an anti-racist arts organization.

Forge deeper partnerships between arts administrators and artists in 2021 to create opportunities for collaborations and entrepreneurship.

Transform virtual spaces into viable stages for more inclusive programming that offers more opportunities for access and exposure to artists of color.

And to artists: Be your personal best; don’t conform to an industry standard that is not inclusive of all artists.

I look forward to hearing what you think. What’s your answer to the question, “Where Do We Go From Here?” Please share your thoughts below.

I wish you and your loved ones a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!

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