Monday, June 04, 2007

Looking at diversity in the arts

About a month or two ago, I had the chance to sit in on several grant reviews (open to the public) at the Arts Council of Indianapolis. These grant reviews were resided over by an array of panelist most, if not all, from out of state. Again and again, with nearly every grant that I heard discussed, the grant panelists stressed a need for each organization to reach out for more diversification when it comes to audiences. Diversity, meaning minority's in this case. They wanted to see increases in the number of minorities that come to arts events as well as an increase in the number of minority artists an organization worked with. If this was mentioned only a few times through out the reviews, I would not have given it to much attention but it was mentioned in all but one of the reviews I listened to, which was about 9 or so. What started to bother me was not the idea but that not once did they suggest how to go about doing this. Everyone of these institutions and organizations would, I think, love to increase their numbers, but how do they do that? How do you go about getting communities that historically are shut off from the Art World and get them interested in coming to these events? This is an issue not just with minority communities but with the general public at large. How do you draw audiences from a population that is not interested in what you have to offer? Museums have recently tried all sort of exhibitions in art museums to try and pull in larger audiences, from motorcycles, to Disney animation cells but will these events convince the general public to continue to come back for, let's say, a Bruce Nauman retrospective? I highly doubt it.

In a somewhat related note... While going through my weekly blog lists, I came across an article by Sonya Dyer from the Guardian titled, "Cultural diversity policies just hold black artists back". While she speaks of issues in the UK, and their political arts policies I think there are parallels that are worth thinking about. Can we find new ways of bringing diverse communities together in the arts? Maybe. Any thoughts on how to go about working with these concerns? Many of these issues straddle political correctness lines, I'm sure, but can we get to the heart of the issue?

6 Responses to “Looking at diversity in the arts”

Carla said...
June 4, 2007 at 9:43 PM

A Precious Moments exhibit would draw my mom and sister to their first IMA visit. How badly do we want this?


Anonymous said...
June 5, 2007 at 10:38 AM

There is no way you will ever find me at the Indy 500 or holding Pacers season tickets. Never. I think the priciple works both ways.


Anonymous said...
June 6, 2007 at 6:12 PM

it has to start with the young. i visited the met, moma, and other art venues as a youngster growing up in inner city new york.

i have also mentored young people and i find that if they are not interested in something before age 15-16 they rarely think about it in later years.

i don't know if the arts council there has a program geared towards junior and senior high school students (in the public schools) to nurture their talents by offering grants to attend arts schools in your state.

scott you stated:
"they wanted... an increase in the number of minority artists an organization worked with."

how about minority artists and/or persons working in the arts organizations.

i don't know what your local art organizations leadership looks like in terms of diversity. but that may be another focal point that can help in diversifying the arts in your community.


Scott said...
June 6, 2007 at 9:12 PM

Anonymous June 6th,

"how about minority artists and/or persons working in the arts organizations.

i don't know what your local art organizations leadership looks like in terms of diversity. but that may be another focal point that can help in diversifying the arts in your community."

Thank you, that is a good point that I failed to mention. The grant commitee did in fact talk about this issue as well.

I also agree that we need to start focusing in on kids and teens to seed this interest in art. I heard once about a program that I think was in NYC where artists were brought in to work with public school kids for week long sessions. I can not remember where I heard or read this, perhaps it was a figment of my imagination but the concept I like. I think these personal interactions with artists, where students can freely ask questions is a great thing. The problem that would seem to come up most often, how would schools fund this, when art departments are already being cut back.


Scott said...
June 7, 2007 at 4:50 PM

Though not dealing with the issue of minority diversification, I was directed to this post and commentary about museums and child education over at the Walkers Art Centers Blog. I thought is was quite interesting and worth reading in regards to part of our discussion here. Read it at:

http://blogs.walkerart.org/ecp/2007/06/04/museums-days-kids/


Jay said...
June 14, 2007 at 1:58 PM

The issue of cultural diversity is a multi-faceted problem that must be addressed on several levels. It is true that getting them while they are young is vitally important. It is also important to invovle minority patrons. It's an ugly issue but power, influence and participation follow MONEY. Money is at the heart of the issue.

If there is no money, artists cannot make a living creating art. If there is no money organizations will not be able to attract qualified minority leadership. If there is no money who wants to participate? Let's face it. Americans love gloss, packaging and fame. This all comes with money. Money = percieved value.


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