I was invited to speak at APAP’s PLENARY “Rethinking The Performing Arts Field” as the culmination of my 2 years in their Arts Leadership Fellows Program in partnership with The University of Southern California. It’s been an honor to be in a program with colleagues I deeply admire. To begin this program two years ago with workshops at USC with the brilliant Liz Lerman and Marc Bamuti Joseph and end with the opportunity to be on this national platform has been truly impactful personally and professionally.
Here is a snippet from what I said at our " The Inextricable Tensions Between Capitalism and Equity in The Performing Arts" section.
For years I have gone to family and youth programming workshops, theatre festivals, conferences, and summits - and I have heard the same thing: That the work of American artists, especially LGBT, artists of color and women theatre-makers is just not there. It’s not up to par. It won’t sell.
I hear so often: “How can we program them or put them in our showcase if they don’t apply”? - but it costs money to apply. $200
“How will I know about these artists if they don’t show up to showcase?” - but it might be $500 for the registration, $150/night for hotel, plus $400 for airfare, and a whole week to be away from your day job.
As a result, I see a system of heavily subsidized European companies led by white men fill artist rosters of agencies, pack the programs of these showcases and then end up in seasons across the country. This I am told is the standard of excellence that I must fit into as an artist. Don’t the young people in my community deserve to see themselves reflected upon the stages we program? Don't the artists who reflect my community deserve the opportunity to have their work in the national marketplace too?
And just to step back for a second. We are all here in this room at the APAP conference because we have enough capital to be part of this conversation. How we do we respect those who are not represented here in this room, at this conference?
I made so many new friends after this plenary and have been in reflection about the experience.
I have been thinking about this quote from the Policy Link Equity Manifesto "embrace complexity as a cause for collaboration"
The reason our field is so imbalanced is that our culture shames those who speak up or point out the obvious. The first topic many are afraid to address is money. I am starting to embrace when I enter spaces for the new year that I am just going to accept that I might be perceived as "extra". It amazes me that so many senior arts leaders and curators are uncomfortable with these conversations but I realize the reason why and how many of my generation are challenging a system that exclusively benefits a select group of people. Discomfort exists within these conversations because a seismic shift has been happening in our field. Just the act of this emerging generation of arts leaders showing up and asking the questions is causing a change and everyone must embrace that discomfort is inevitable.
To be an artist AND a curator is to question, and when we don't question, we are not doing our job. Every time we speak about money in a transparent manner, the conversation gets out in the open and our colleagues become conscious about why some voices are not in the room, not programmed on stages, not hired on leadership teams and why some get to curate and others don't. The complexity of the conversation is not a cause to be fearful or defensive but to bring us together to explore collaborative ways to get new work out into the world, more voices in the curatorial process and diverse perspectives running institutions. We can't accomplish any of this without talking about capitalism.
Final statement from Policylink's manifesto:
This is equity: just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.
This has been a transformative experience. THANK YOU, APAP for giving me a platform and doing what needs to be done. To all my LFP colleagues: THANK you for EVERYTHING.