Arts Connect International Promotes Cultural Equity

In the arts and culture community, we often view the work we do as a tool for social change. And that is true; the arts have an incredible and unique capacity to connect our communities, change our minds, open our hearts, and share stories that have long gone untold. However, we must also recognize the myriad of ways that arts & cultural institutions perpetuate harm against marginalized communities, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Unequal access to funding, space, and education; microaggressions and discriminatory behavior within work and creative spaces; a tendency to center whiteness instead of amplifying the voices of BIPOC creatives; these are some of the ways that the creative sector upholds racist structures within our institutions. To become true accomplices in anti-racist work, change must start from within. 

It is for this reason that the ongoing work of Arts Connect International is especially significant to this moment. Based in Boston, ACI is dedicated to building “equity & inclusion in and through the arts”, recognizing both the arts as a tool for change and systemic racism found in many arts & cultural institutions. They declare arts a human right, and racism & marginalization an infringement of that right that must be combated on every level through cultural equity. Primarily, ACI’s programs support emerging artists and youth of color, brokering relationships between BIPOC arts leaders and leaders with institutional power to develop cultural equity. They host an annual Arts Equity Summit, coordinate Youth Participatory Action Research projects to develop solutions within the community, and hold retreats for BIPOC and accomplices to develop skills, build relationships, and rejuvenate.

But ACI’s newest program is primarily for white artists and white-founded and white-led organizations. Their new Cultural Equity Learning Community, created in partnership with The Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture and The Boston Foundation, was developed in the recognition that any discussion of equity within the arts and culture community must acknowledge the long history of oppression, marginalization, and violence that shapes our society, and our institutions. The Cultural Equity Learning Community is a project and space for Greater Boston-based white arts & culture leaders to unlearn racist practice and develop the skills to reshape and rebuild our sector into a space that is not simply free from harm against BIPOC, but actively combats it wherever it may be found. Through a series of lectures and homework assignments, expert panels from BIPOC arts leaders, drop-in space for open discussion amongst white peers, and a partnership model to develop accountability, ACI’s program hopes to serve as a first step for many of our white-led arts & cultural organizations in diving into anti-racist work and building a more culturally equitable future.

This should be a time of deep reflection and introspection for our community. Racial violence is a difficult, uncomfortable, complex issue, but recognizing our complicity is the first step to taking action. We applaud The City of Boston’s Office of Art and Culture, The Boston Foundation and ACI’s commitment to building cultural equity within our sector so that all members of our community can safely participate, create, and enjoy what the arts & culture have to offer. The road to an anti-racist future is long and the work is hard, but is necessary that we dedicate ourselves to a just, equitable community for all.

To stay up to date on announcements, please fill out ACI's Cultural Equity Learning Community Interest Form.

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