Thriving in the Business of Arts

November 13, 2022 — I am honored to be a member of a group of African-American arts leaders and administrators who are organizing virtual discussions to showcase and leverage our collective cultural and philanthropic power to sustain and expand Black cultural life.

At the Table, whose launch I wrote about last year, recently held its second virtual roundtable. Our goal is to offer dynamic and meaningful discussions featuring:

  • Opportunities for connections between arts and culture practitioners, spanning all creative industries;
  • A platform for financial growth and independence of our arts and cultural sectors;
  • An infrastructure for community-building through the arts and sustainability, and
  • Encouragement to engage in self-care, healing, and wellness.

The second virtual session featured an outstanding panel of arts leaders who are pushing the boundaries to ensure that information and financial resources are available to artists and arts organizations that have been the anchors of Black community life. The panelists were:

Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham: Executive Director and co-founder of Museum Hue and HueArts NYC

Derek Lee McPhatter: Artist, Writer, Screenwriter and fundraising consultant

Zannie G. Voss, Ph.D.: Director of SMU Data Arts, a national arts research center

Durrell Cooper, Ph.D., founder of Cultural Innovations, LLC, served as moderator. His company, along with mine, Walker International Communications Group, co-produced the program, along with our co-founder, Shirley Taylor, who is the Senior Director of Education at the Apollo Theater. The Land Acknowledgement statement was provided by Oleana Whispering Dove, an author; Native outreach liaison; Smithsonian-trained Indigenous Lenapehoking historian, and museum curator.

There were three key takeaways for me:

Ms. Johnson-Cunningham: HueArts NYC created a “Brown Paper” that examined the factors and resources needed to ensure the long-term stability and sustainability of arts entities founded and led by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and all People of Color. You can download the paper at this link. A key point she made is that the arts landscape is very political and it’s important to learn how to advocate for our arts and cultural institutions. She noted: “Our resilience will be our resistance.”

Dr. Voss: There has been a shift in the attention being paid to Black organizations following the murder of George Floyd. But how long will it last? She believes it’s very important to keep our eyes on Black institution-building, and has research to back up her conclusions.

Mr. McPhatter: In order for there to be a thriving arts ecosystem, there also must be a focus on opportunities to support the artistic process as opposed to just focusing on the outcomes. He also noted the importance of maintaining a vision of the future; one in which we continue to “dream ourselves into reality.”

We will continue these discussions, which we intend to be spaces for Black voices, innovation, and joy.

I invite you to check out the full virtual discussion at this link. As always, I would like to know what you think. I invite you to share your comments and thoughts below.

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