Inside Arts and APAP was so kind to ask me to write a piece about my experience in the Arts Leadership Fellows Program and the launch of Lionheart. I briefly discuss the field I want to work in collaboration with others to build. Thank you so much for this opportunity and I am humbled to be in such great company with Tiffany Rea Fisher, Andre Perry, and Molly Clark
Here is the Piece :
It's transformative to be in a room with colleagues who share the same concerns, frustrations and dreams about the field. I work in TYA, ( Theatre For Young Audiences) which is very siloed, and live in the south which also distances me. In LFP, I realized every single fellow, whether they were an agent, presenter or artist was there because we all wanted to do better in how we operate, intersect with one another and reimagine a field that actually reflects the diverse communities we live in for the next generation. We all had the same questions: How can we authentically get more voices to the table, more artists supported and new ideas to make our work sustainable? How do we actively dismantle the systems of white supremacy that are hurting artists and our field? Not once did I hear: "It's just the way it is" All I witnessed was a room full of people ready to engage in personal accountability by rolling up their sleeves and begin to do this much-needed work to move the field forward.
For my research project, I studied the grassroots strategies of artists' coalitions who are re-evaluating systemic field-wide conventions that complicate the delineation of healthy boundaries and prevent safer and inclusive spaces in our work. Since the start of the #notinourhouse movement in Chicago, artists and cultural workers are organizing to collectively create community-wide standards to put into practice in cultural spaces around the world. Yes, this growth is in response to #metoo, but it's not about taking the bad guys down. The goal is to create a shared language and build tools for individuals, especially artists who are not classified as employees to advocate for themselves and provide resources to prevent something from going wrong so we can eradicate the mindset of "I just thought this is how things go" and "I didn't say anything because I didn't want to lose future work". It's been invigorating to meet organizers from across the country that are putting new systems into action.
This program has certainly been a catalyst to take my work and my leadership on a different path. I think knowledge-hoarding and working in silos is oppressive because it has the potential to keep so many people away from our field and eventually causes your org to get stuck in the same systems. As our company begins to launch in Memphis, I am in the process of evaluating ways that we can document and share our process in the work that we do creatively and on the administration side. We want to invest in our city’s local artists and model to the young people and audience we serve that there are many pathways and people that go into making our work. What would happen if we insert a budget into every program of a show, so our audience can see the labor and cost that goes into developing a new piece? Can we have a few open rehearsals during the development process where anyone is invited to watch us as we sketch out ideas in our devising process? Could we host failure Fridays where we talk about all the grants we didn’t get, the ideas that didn’t work and what we wish we did in the future? Would this radical sharing model help local artists explore new creative and entrepreneurial strategies they can apply to their own practice? I don’t know if this will help the community understand our work on a deeper level, but my experience in this program has given me the insight to know it’s worth a try.