The series will air in two segments, with the first featuring five leading BIPOC voices for the theater industry in the DMV.
Embracing Arlington Arts has announced the launch of a podcast series – “Diversity and Cultural Equity” – as part of the organization’s Theater/Arts Management Education Series. “We know that a major impediment to achieving more diversity in the arts and culture industry is that while all agree that concrete changes must be made, there has been a lack of insight into how and what these changes should entail to garner result,” Janet Kopenhaver, President of Embracing Arlington Arts explained. “We want to help fill that gap with this series,” she added.
The series will air in two segments, with the first featuring five leading BIPOC voices for the theater industry in the DMV: Raymond Caldwell, Artistic Director, Theater Alliance; Natalie Graves Tucker, Founder, Blackstage DC; Chil Kong, Artistic Director, Adventure Theatre; Elena Velasco, Co-Founder, Convergence Theater; and Deb Sivigny, Scenic and Costume Designer. (Click here to listen to, and get summaries and more information about these interviews.) These leaders were asked their thoughts on the most important changes needed in the arts industry to make it more equitable on stage, in the boardrooms and in the audience. The second segment being aired on October 13 will feature Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) experts who will provide concrete action items, tools, etc. to help arts organizations make these changes and achieve more diversity.
“While our goal is not to develop the perfect plan, we are striving to have several options on the table so that arts organizations can choose the one(s) that best fit their needs to achieve more equity,” Kopenhaver clarified.
There were several similar themes and demands among the five BIPOC guests. They include:
a-? The number of BIPOC Artistic Directors, other theater leaders, actors, and backstage staff members absolutely needs to be increased greatly and not only hired for the “one black show” presented each year. An example cited numerous times of the inequity is the fact that currently out of about 100 professional theater organizations in the DMV, there are only five Artistic Directors of Color running non-ethnic companies.
a-? There needs to be more transparency in season planning, and more than just one BIPOC story in a season and that story should not always focus on trauma of that community of color.
a-? White American Theater leaders need to do more than issue statements of support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Measurable actions need to be implemented.
a-? It is absolutely critical that theater organizations recruit and elect more people of color to their Board of Directors.
a-? Dollars and time need to be set aside for more consistent anti-racism training of their staffs, Boards, volunteers, ushers and anyone who comes in contact with artists and audience members of color to ensure these persons are treated with respect and graciousness.
While these guests offered many honest and poignant statements during their interviews, here are some memorable quotes from each:
Raymond Caldwell: We have to make diversity happen. It will not happen on its own.
Chil Kong: People who are least heard are black women which is strange to me since they tend to be the strongest in the room.
Deb Sivigny: White American Theater – the BIPOC community doesn’t owe you the answers; do the research yourself.
Natalie Graves Tucker: I’m hopeful that theaters will take note and take this time when there are no productions to actually learn from what they are saying (in statements of support) and move forward in a positive direction.
Elena Velasco: How do you feel welcome in a space where you don’t see yourself or hear yourself.
This series, and all future ones, can be heard on several podcast platforms: Libsyn, ApplePodcast, Google Podcast, and Spotify.
Embracing Arlington Arts is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the vibrancy and health of arts and culture. Interested supporters are encouraged to “follow” and “like” us on Facebook; and follow us on Twitter.
For more information, contact Janet Kopenhaver at [email protected]