Together We Rise: Convention Reflections
Whether you’re an arts advocate, creator, or funder, attending the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, held June 14-17 in Denver, felt like a rallying call for change, and each of the keynote speakers led us with hope and honesty. Opening the convention, Denver social movement band the Flobots reverberated in every chest in the room with a performance of Rise: “It’s not equal, it’s not fair … together we rise,” and ushered in the weekend with music that mattered. The artist activist journey was illuminated by the work of Sol Guy and Tanya Aguiñiga, whose work is making impact far beyond boundary and territory challenges. Each session bravely tackled the serious issues of equity and the power of art to nourish inclusivity, embrace humanity, and grapple with the complex issues facing us today.
Like so many cities, Denver has recognized that the systems of power grant privilege and access unequally in our community. The more we acknowledge this, the more we understand the pervasiveness of inequity that impacts funding, programming, arts policy, employment, and nearly every aspect of our work—bringing us closer to the opportunity to emerge into a new space. As a member of the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs, equity is at the center of nearly every discussion we have at Denver Arts & Venues—from access, to public art, to recognition and awards. While our commitment never wanes, there are times when advancing the conversation and continuing the work feels heavy and full of shortcomings. Our hope for our arts community is one of equity and inclusivity: we want our work to unite us, inspire conversation, be a place for collaboration, and make our community a place of connection, authenticity, and where arts and culture truly feels accessible to every one of our citizens.
I left the convention understanding the imperatives of equity and inclusivity emerging in our collective consciousness, and I felt the will of the Denver community rising beautifully to the challenge. Through arts and culture, we will move our city and state to a higher ground—we will be more than just, more than equitable, more than conscious. We gained valuable tools to inspire and fuel the work and to keep us moving forward. Passion is at the core of all art, and the reflection of the human experience in all its nuances is why we need it—to feed us, to fuel us, to make us whole. Thank you Americans for the Arts, convention participants, and arts leaders who have continued to inspire our local and national community. Let this now be a time where we rise, together.