Promoting Diversity in the Arts
by Tina Blake, PCA
When we create art on the stage or on a canvas, we are showing others the world from our point of view. Individuality and diversity in art are critically important, because art is among the most powerful ways to move people.
While theatres across the nation have famously taken a stand to increase diversity and end racism, Prescott Center for the Arts understands that it’s not enough. PCA Executive Director Robyn Allen said, “We understand, and I am challenging other arts organizations to walk the talk too, after we understand our marching orders during this peaceful protest. This isn’t just a challenge for our artists, it cuts across all aspects of life. I was very impressed by the words of one of our state leaders, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, calling for our families of all races to come together so that peaceful understanding and supporting our neighbors and community members in need becomes our new vision. I believe we are being presented with an amazing opportunity for us as human beings to finally get it right by becoming better listeners and actively finding new and better ways in which we can partner to end anti-blackness and all racism.”
A recent study found that 85.4% of the works in the collections of all major US museums were made by white artists, and 87.4% by men. Works by African-American artists are the smallest share at just 1.2%, Asian artists total at 9%, and works by Hispanic and Latino artists constitute only 2.8%.
A newly released report from the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) points up this lack of minority representation. The organization found that 86.8% of all shows produced in the 2016-2017 Broadway season were written by white playwrights, and that roles filled by minority actors dropped to 33% from a record-breaking high of 35% the previous year, which likely saw a bump in part from musicals like Hamilton and On Your Feet.
Diversity is an issue, and we have to do more. Recently PCA produced a monologue from To Kill A Mockingbird by Kevin Nissen for At Home programming on its YouTube channel. Kevin’s portrayal of Atticus Finch was very powerful, a reminder that our judgments of others do not necessarily lead to justice.
What can we do as a community to promote diversity in the arts? We've listened to our audiences, and here are a few ideas we're hearing.
• For the patron: Be proactive and support productions that represent diversity. • For writers, actors, and artists: Do your research on racism and internal bias before beginning the creative process. Understanding the history of these issues within the business will help build an inclusive and positive environment. Be wary of engaging in tokenism or promoting harmful or damaging caricatures.
• For art centers: Take risks and promote diversity by choosing scripts and displaying art to engage questions of diversity and inclusiveness. Being more color-conscious gives members of marginalized groups opportunities to succeed.
We want to continue to ask the questions that raise awareness for equality for all, and to hear your thoughts on improving diversity through the visual and performing arts. Send your thoughts and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out pca-az.net or call (928) 445-3286 for the latest on PCA Serves, PCA at Home, and the safe reopening of your “Home for the Arts.”