Programming Toward Inclusivity and Why it Matters

In the second of ArtsBoston’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Member Workshop Series, sponsored by Bank of America, we assembled a panel of local arts leaders to speak about the process they use to integrate EDI into their programming. How does an inclusive season come together, what challenging conversations are being had, and how can you make a commitment to inclusion while meeting your bottom line?

This important conversation was inspired by David Dower, Co-Artistic Director at ArtsEmerson, who wrote a post for HowlRound last summer in response to Manhattan Theatre Club’s 2015-16 Season Announcement. David C. Howse (Executive Director, ArtsEmerson), P. Carl (Co-Artistic Director, ArtsEmerson), Catherine Carr Kelly (Executive Director, Central Square Theater), and Nick Capasso (Museum Director, Fitchburg Art Museum) spent the afternoon with 40 ArtsBoston members sharing their strategies and listening to challenges facing the members in our sector. Panelists made it clear that there is a purposeful way in which a season should come together and a season that is not inclusive is purposefully designed to be that way. At ArtsBoston we always say “If you aren’t intentionally inclusive, chances are you’re being unintentionally exclusive.”

So, what can be done? Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion:

Lead with Mission: programming a season should be intentional and should reflect the values of your organization.

  • Since joining the Fitchburg Art Museum in 2014, Nick Capasso has been shifting the mission of the museum from a place that serves art to a place that serves people.

Representation Matters: if audiences and visitors don’t feel they are represented in all aspects of your institution, why would they engage with you organization?

  • In the HowlRound post, David Dower lays out the steps ArtsEmerson takes to make sure various diverse stories and voices are represented on stage. Their Diversity Grid, a simple and clear spreadsheet, is in use from the very first conversation and helps them keep on track with their mission.

Relationships are Key: listening to the needs and interests of your community is essential and a good way to engage in meaningful community partnerships.

  • At Central Square Theater, a Connectivity Council and Community Partners are involved in planning of some production, helping to connect the theater with the surrounding community for their pre-show symposia and post-performance discussions.

These are a few examples of the good work being done and, as always, this work takes time and energy, and a willingness to listen, collaborate and make mistakes.

 Check out photos from the conversation below!

Programming Toward Inclusivity

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