Reflections on Native American Cultural Contributions in 2022

Posted by Mr. John W. Haworth, Dec 16, 2022

Native-led organizations and Native American artists are receiving a well-deserved increase in public attention, recognition, and support. Mainstream arts organizations and funders are at long last offering significantly more opportunities for Native arts to be seen and heard, and I’m encouraged to see some of the major foundations and the federal cultural agencies demonstrate their leadership in support of Native arts and cultures. As 2022 draws to a close, it’s the perfect moment to reflect on the state of Indigenous arts and culture and to celebrate numerous successes for Native American artists and cultural organizations. We are at a crossroads in America, with fierce divides in our politics and a heated national discourse. May both the accomplishments and the struggles of Native American creative workers and leaders remind us of the values of resiliency, wisdom, tenacity, stamina, patience—and how important the arts and culture are to our collective future.

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Connecting the Dots: Advancing Gender Equity in the Arts through Research, Policy, and Change

New data from the National Endowment for the Arts, summarized in the research brief “Artists in the Workforce: Selected Demographic Characteristics Prior to COVID‐19,” paints a fuller picture of why women in the dance industry, particularly women of color, were particularly devastated by the pandemic. When combined with Dance Data Project®’s forthcoming Gender Equity Index—which was born out of a necessity to center policies and initiatives that keep and advance women in the arts—these findings call for more intentional support towards women in the dance industry and the performing arts overall. While men have recouped labor force losses since February 2020, there are one million fewer women in the general labor force as of January 2022. The sharp contrast between the number of men and women in the labor force likely reflects uneven caregiving responsibilities men and women have taken on during the pandemic, and caretaking duties not met with due support from employers or the government have been a longstanding barrier to career advancement and retention for women in the arts. To advance equity in the arts, we must acknowledge that the workforce is overwhelmingly female and support policies that recognize women as primary caretakers in order to prevent a further “she-cession” from the arts workforce.

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A new “Warrior’s Circle of Honor” at the National Native American Veterans Memorial

Posted by Mr. John W. Haworth, Nov 07, 2022

Designed by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma), the National Native American Veterans Memorial is located on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall and was commissioned by Congress to give all Americans and our international visitors the opportunity to learn more about the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States. As a tribute to Native heroes, this work of public art recognizes, for the first time on a national scale, the distinguished service of American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian veterans in every branch of the U.S. military. Given that Native Americans have a long history of service dating back to the Revolutionary War, and also serve at the highest per capita level of participation of any demographic, it is especially appropriate (and it’s about time!) for Native American veterans to be honored with this memorial. Public art in the 21st century is playing a key role in creating meaningful places for gathering and contemplation. Many memorials created in the not-so-distant past are figurative statues of heroic and historical figures. By contrast, both the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National Native Americans Veterans Memorial are abstract works that are meditative in tone and rich in symbolism. The National Native American Veterans Memorial also serves as a place of reverence and honor, a commemoration of people who served with honor, and a site of celebration.

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Cooperative Economics: Balancing (in)equitable advocacy in Black art communities

Posted by Ms. Keya Crenshaw, Oct 27, 2022

Whether or not you practice Kwanzaa, the celebration's Seven Principles apply to all areas of life, including the arts, industry and economics, healthcare, and education. These actions can look like developing community-wide initiatives, such as those that center on art; creating community-led and focused direct impact service organizations; establishing businesses; educational and cultural events; and other enterprises that celebrate and center sustainable economic growth for and within the Black Diaspora. Like the art we create—be it murals during protests, artist community services rebuilding after a natural disaster, micro-grants for entrepreneurship, or any of the multiple ways creatives show up and produce work—Ujamaa, or Cooperative Economics, teaches us that this fundamental drive should grow out of the communal concept that it is for the betterment of our communities. Nobody should be under- or misrepresented, exploited, or oppressed; no one person, business, corporation, nonprofit, or organization holds the power to an unequal distribution of wealth, opportunity, recognition, or expression. As a practice within and among Diasporic populations, this principle asks us to understand that when we share our talents for growth and continued development of our environments, we establish the blueprint for how we survive and thrive.

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Perspective: Highlighting Disabled Voices through Artistry and Accessibility

Posted by Molly Joyce, Oct 20, 2022

At the age of seven, I was involved in a car accident that nearly amputated my left hand. Since the accident, I have journeyed from denying my disability to embracing it. With this progression, I have frequently rethought concepts that are considered critical to what disability is and can mean. This thinking progressed in a dialogue with legendary activist Judith Heumann, known for contributions to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and foreign service with disability rights. During a conversation in 2019, Heumann asked why I refer to my left hand as “weak.” This question struck me personally and politically, as I usually called my left hand “weak” to provide a quick response for what my disability may be, thus categorizing it within narrowly defined social definitions of what weakness can and should be. I wondered if rethinking this terminology could foster a broader understanding and interpretation of “weakness” and related terms—terms explicitly central to disability culture yet relatable to all, disabled or nondisabled. I aimed to explore this by asking what these terms meant to disabled individuals across disabilities, highlighting the plurality of the disability community, and reframing collective perceptions about disability overall. The project will be released as an album on New Amsterdam Records on October 28, celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month.

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The Power of Culturally Specific Artistry

Posted by Jade Cintrón Báez , Sep 20, 2022

As founder and director of ¡Looking Bilingüe!, a storytelling platform for Latinés who feel ni de aquí, ni de allá (neither from here nor from there), I have the pleasure of listening to people’s stories, exchanging perspectives on issues our community faces, and uplifting the U.S.-born Latinés who can’t speak Spanish fluently, face racism, and/or who generally feel they can’t claim their Latiné culture. These guests and I amplify these topics, archiving where they are on their journey, and acknowledge the patchwork quilt that is Latinidad: not a melting pot, but how we stitch together who we are today based on our shared and distinct multicultural and multirace histories. This work was once something I ran from. The idea of using my cultural identity professionally was something I felt embarrassed about. It felt inappropriate, rude, and something I had to keep neutralized for the sake of homogeneity. As an actor, I’d been conditioned to think of how I could fit in certain “ideal” boxes, and this had bled into my personal life. I’d grown weary of 30-second elevator pitches of my cultural identity and artistry. I wanted to find a way to be myself in both professional and personal spaces without having to tick everyone else’s boxes—to make my story mine.

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