Recent News On Diversity And The Arts

Kudos to Joe Patti over at Butts In The Seats for posting a terrific article on 2/27/2012 that examines some recent events in Oregon about changes in state arts funding that would connect funding to diversity levels among an organization’s board and staff (office and artists).

As this is a super busy week, I don’t have time to include my own thoughts on this but Patti’s article presents a very comprehensive examination along with a host of thoughtful questions; not the least of which is whether or not any such requirements would potentially violate Federal laws.

So pop over and give the article a read and weigh in with your thoughts in a comment to his piece.

Read Arts Funding and Diversity in Oregon

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “Recent News On Diversity And The Arts”

  1. Is the intent of Portland arts funding to support the arts or diversity? Not all art forms are universally admired across demographic lines. To comply with this requirement smaller arts organizations (often the most delicate with regard to financial health) will have to be gathered under pan-cultural umbrella organizations to qualify for funding.

    This of course means another layer of administrative staff that will have to be paid, which is effectively a tax on the already meagre public allotment granted to these organizations. The result? Less art, and less diversity in artist expression.

    A horribly idiotic (albeit well intentioned) notion.

    • The part about it becoming a burden on smaller budget groups is quite apt and one of the reasons behind why Congress decided to apply some of the the provision in Sarbanes-Oxley to nonprofit orgs but not others.

      I don’t know enough about the Portland initiative to say with confidence what the motivation is but on a surface level, it’s a good reminder to arts groups to be sincere in your efforts about diversity or you’ll begin to see more and more initiative likes this crop up elsewhere.

  2. Well, intentioned, yes. But the outcome is that minorities are singled out by their ethnic group . What a sad thing to be an arts professional who happens to be a minority who is suddenly not just another part of the team but to be an affirmative action hire. Sounds like discrimination to me. Legislation isn’t always the best way to accomplish worthy outcomes.

  3. I think the comments here are an overreaction, especially Bialo’s. Diversity hires know that their being hired under these policies says nothing about the quality of their work, only the poor hiring practices of these companies.

    To the point of the linked article, Patti and the OregonLive article make clear that the Portland government intends to apply these standards flexibly, so all this worrying and theorizing seems over the top and misplaced.

    I do share others’ concerns about diluting the missions and focuses of some concerned companies in pursuance of the ‘community of color’ programming mandate. I think a policy supporting start-up arts groups targeting the concerned communities would’ve been a stronger alternative, and would have the added benefit of expanding Portland’s arts offerings, instead of pushing existing companies to expand their programs in areas that might be outside their competencies.

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