Welcome to the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon

Posted by Dr. Brea M. Heidelberg, May 07, 2018 0 comments

The arts field has begun to open its minds and hearts to the chorus of voices that have been on the outside for far too long. Many organizations are (finally) taking a critical look internally to investigate and interrogate the many ways in which the field has been built upon, and continues to perpetuate, problematic practices that demonstrate bias against under-represented groups. These critical reflections have manifested in equity statements, changes to organizational by-laws, and organizational restructurings that have positively impacted hiring practices, funding requirements, and board recruitment.

A lot of the changes have been procedural, to date. There are many of us waiting with bated breath to see if practical change occurs and is maintained. Despite the psychological and emotional hurdles many artists and arts administrators of color experience during their respective journeys in the field, we have hope. This year, Americans for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders Council wanted to show gratitude for that hope by offering a substantive means of acknowledgement through this week’s blog salon. A special thank you to the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) for developing this year’s theme, “Our Power to Create Change Through the Arts.”

For this blog salon, we asked artists and arts administrators of color to respond to the following prompt: “My power to create change in/through the arts is …” In a world where people of color are so often disenfranchised and can feel powerless, our hope was to create space to acknowledge the resilience and resourcefulness necessary to own the places and spaces where power can be restructured, reimagined, and reclaimed. This will be the first time that a blog salon has been dedicated specifically to highlighting voices of color.

We start off with Vijay Gupta, an Americans for the Arts Board Member and Founder & Artistic Director of Street Symphony, speaking about his work with Los Angeles’s Skid Row community. Jesus Reyes, Community Partnerships Director at Center Theatre Group, talks about the importance of your work being bigger than you as an individual. Aileen Alon, an ELC member and Director of Arts & Creative Industry at Opa-locka Community Development Corporation, shares her experiences doing the daunting and exhilarating task of creating something new. Nelson Roman, Artistic Director & Founder of Palante Theater, talks about his quest to provide access to diverse voices and stories. Josh Franco, PhD, a National Collector as the Archives of American Art, talks about the cyclical nature of systemic field issues from his perspective as an historian.

LaShawnda Crowe Storm, an artist, activist, and community builder, talks about the nuance of doing difficult work and being accountable while doing it. Jenny Chu, Program Coordinator at Write Around Portland, shares her experiences coordinating space for people of color to share their experiences working in arts organizations. Victoria George, Audience Lab Director & Founder of the Network for Arts Administrators of Color at ArtsBoston, speaks about the importance of ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion work that is guided by a theory of change. Erika Hawthorn, Family Philanthropy & Events Associate at Bainum Family Foundation, shares her personal journey from shy artist to empowered accomplice. Finally, you are all in for a special treat when Bryan Joseph Lee, Associate Director of Special Artistic Project at The Public Theater and one of the newest members of the ELC, closes out the blog salon. We are grateful to each contributor not only for doing the important work that they do, but also for sharing a piece of themselves with us and for demonstrating resistance of systemic issues through their continued existence in a field that often struggles to make space for them. On behalf of the ELC—thank you: the field is better for this persistence.

If you’d like to continue any of the conversations started in the following posts, or if you have conversations that you’d like to start, please join us in Denver June 14-17 for Americans for the Arts’ 2018 Annual Convention. There will be an EL Mixer on Saturday night, June 16. Also, look for members of the ELC during networking breaks—we look forward to connecting with you.


The blog salon “Our Power to Create Change Through the Arts” is presented by the Seattle University, College Arts and Sciences.

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