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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Recognizing the Value of the Arts in Oxford, Mississippi

Posted by Oliver Nell, Nov 28, 2022

Only a few years ago, the business community in Oxford skewed heavily toward traditional notions of economic growth and profitability, which inevitably bred a bias toward large manufacturing businesses, insurance, finance, and healthcare. A smaller-scale entrepreneur community, particularly more creative and artistic entrepreneurs, was not cultivated to the degree it should have been. This community didn’t attract attention because it wasn’t necessarily seen as vital to the health of the local economy. In 2015, Oxford’s local arts agency, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC), recognized this was an issue for the community. They saw that a major part of the local economy—the arts sector—was not being taken seriously as an economic driver. The numbers, they found, were on their side, demonstrating that the arts made up more than a negligible portion of the local economy. The YAC began strategizing with the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce on how they could best capitalize on the arts ecosystem in town, which was finding a way to survive even without the necessary value placed on it. Together they began looking for ways to integrate the separate arts and business communities such that their complementary skill-sets and capacities could meet their mutual goals and needs.

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Colorado Representative Leslie Herod Advocates for the Arts in General Assembly

Posted by Mr. Jay H. Dick, Nov 03, 2022

Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), presented Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod with the 2021 Public Leadership in the Arts Award for her work in advancing arts and culture, especially during the pandemic to help artists and arts organizations survive. As Chair of the Colorado House Appropriations Committee, she has used her influence to ensure that arts and culture are not only seen as economic engines but are treated with the respect they deserve. Rep. Herod is fond of comparing the economic impact of the state’s arts and culture sector to its ski industry. Aware that everyone in Colorado knows that the ski industry is huge in the state—supporting jobs and bringing in tax revenue—she notes that the ski industry is $4.8 billion dollars, while arts and culture is a $14.4 billion dollar industry, generating about three times more than the ski industry. Rep. Herod believes that the arts bring diverse groups of people together to inspire connections, create change, and support economic vibrancy. She believes that the shortest distance between people are their stories, and the arts open doors to conversations that define us as a community and address complex issues to create greater understanding. 

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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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