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2015 12 EbooletinAbove Right: ALI Fellows at the Smithsonian Latino Center Above Left: No Somos Inmigrantes by Jesus Barraza

 

Primer in Policy: from the boardroom to the community

  

A vital part of the work all of us do in the field of Latin@ arts and cultures that can, for several reasons, deliberately appear overlooked or under-seen has to do with how our individual practices influence and effectuate larger issues of policy. As it happens, the facts regarding our involvement with policymaking can be made less apparent when projected upon oversimplified or reduced portrayals of that activity. That is, through the idea that state, national, and international policies are only an effect of work between State representatives, governmental agents/agencies, lobbyists, foundation leaders or magnates of commerce. But what happens if we rotate that view a little so that the ability to influence policy is understood as a fundamental gesture and attitude that we can all access -that we can all possess and realize through the work we already do?

 

For many communities of color, our approach to policy has a lot to do with how we imagine that it gets made or built: are there specific individuals in our society who are solely responsible for it? Are policies the result and reflection of measures we decide upon only during election seasons? What’s the difference between public and private versions of policymaking? Is there a relation between the kinds of social engagement and activism we directly participate in and evolving policies?

 

Social Movements

Any insight into the histories as well as the contemporary features of our social movements can prove quite an advantage in broadening the field of policymaking because they (in many ways) are already an outcome of and a challenge to a wider institutionalized logic. For instance, dominant organizational and institutional layouts are guided by a kind of logic, one that consists of a nuanced internal culture -often embodied by its physical infrastructure- whose procedural model or administering is reflected by its external impact, by its effect. Because the organized and self-conscious mobilization of peoples has historically been a response to either political, justice-oriented, racial, or economic imperatives, our existing institutional networks have been called into that process: their function being either hailed or summoned to participate and legitimize the issue at stake or brought into question by that organized social body. In other words, emancipatory social movements –then and now- embody a political response and ethos often meant to address (and even alter) social stratifications. The forming of that response itself, at its most mechanical, is already a mobilization of social, political, and economic awareness: it’s an understanding of the existing state affairs struggling to take shape.

 

Recognized Government

Before we go any further, though, let’s consider policy to be generally understood as the activities and effects of any recognized government. That’s the classic take. Things get more interesting, however, when we look at the fact that our government shares a reality with other social forces that may not emerge out of a democratic mandate, like market economies driven/compelled by multidimensional corporations and a global civil order that we largely apprehend through INGOs and their remedial/relief work throughout the planet. And, lest we forget, beyond these forms of human organizing are a set of natural forces, the horizon of which yields not only an array of resources but also the potential for incomprehensible catastrophes, many of them man-made. In this scenario, any contemporary governing body –one that is in the service of public good- consists of national governments designed to administer the well-being of its people and institutions through the use of both public and private market sectors.

 

Now, what traditional summaries, like the one above, tend to underemphasize, though, is how the dynamic between the aforementioned entities/players/agents is itself a result of developing policies, which means the relations between those different social protagonists is constantly being analyzed, evaluated and translated to meet emerging or unforeseen needs. Simply put, the elements we’ve just described are all –each of them- far less simple or even stable and much more open to change or to fluidly integrating new behavior and ideas. And it’s that fluid tension between the state, our public/private institutions, globally integrated capitalism, and the philanthropic order which is the site of community engagement. So engage we do -through our manifold labor, through innovative ideas and thinking, through educating ourselves and others, through active participation in our market economies, and, on every election, through casting our votes. This vantage point allows us to see all too clearly how the production of culture, the production of arts, and the production of our communities is indeed always in conversation with the development of policies.

 

A further step in that direction could be to embrace the fact that –like anyone else- the work that we do as Latin@ artists, arts administrators, and culture bearers means many things to us. Sure, it’s a way of meeting general economic needs and expectations, but, it’s also a way of being part of a shared social experience and of building something that goes beyond our immediate or individual selves: it’s a way of making a better world out of what we found. Our current political economy really lends itself to thinking about our work this way by already drawing profound distinctions between material labor and immaterial labor and, even more specifically, physical labor and cognitive labor. In other words, sometimes we work to create things (art objects, cars, food) and sometimes to create experiences (entertainment, information, services). Either of these will consist of some combination of labor (physical/cognitive).

 

Imaginative Engagement

Another key to influencing policy lies in the overall way that we participate with institutions or organizations. Many times, the degree of that participation has to do with our role within the organizational or institutional infrastructure, but quite often it’s also determined by how we support activities, events, or programming as members of a surrounding community. The agency in such behavior comes about when we participate thoughtfully. Now, it merits clarification that a lot of the opportunities for organizational/institutional participation out there –whether artistic, social, or political in nature- consists in activities of following instructions. Those are exercises in obedience not participation. When we participate thoughtfully it means that, yes, we engage in an informed manner which, in the end, means that we engage in an imaginative rather than a prescribed manner.

 

To follow such thread, participation of that kind has been invaluable for arts organizations of color and is an irreplaceable element for their collective future. For example, when many Latin@ arts organizations that had emerged as a response to social inequities began to forge a deeper relation with government agencies and foundations in order to qualify for the types of resource support previously secured by more dominant or legacy organizations and institutions, we drew upon the further professionalization of skills, knowledge, and cultural practices already present within our communities. In other words, our organizations benefited from a thought-driven investment on behalf of employees, artists, advisors, and community supporters that to this day fosters their longevity. The drive to further professionalize our efforts also leads arts organizations of color to understand the powerful effects of engaging visionary, dedicated, and savvy board members that bring cross-sector knowledge.  This level of robustly activating the cognitive, material, and fiscal resources of our communities is at the source of our organizations’ regenerative capacities. It engages the unparalleled faculties of our artists, arts administrators, culture bearers, leadership, and donorship.

 

One example of such imaginative engagement would be the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), in particular their recent release of a USDAC Statement on Syrian Refugee Crisis. Now, it would take only a little bit of research on the USDAC for one to confirm that there is indeed no such departmental branch of our national government. The immediate conclusion is then that in reality USDAC does not exist, except for the fact that it completely does exist: it's both the effect and result of a collective affirmation, of an organized collaboration, and of a concrete response by a diverse range of agents/agencies to what is perceived as an absence in our shared cultural spectrum. Together, the participants of this organized entity address concerns, issues, and ideas that resonate with the sphere of contemporary artistic and cultural production. Through this platform, their statement "...calls on all artists and creative activists to use our gifts for compassion and justice, sharing images, performances, experiences, writings, and other works of art that raise awareness, build connection, cultivate empathy, and inspire us to welcome those who are forced from homes that are no longer safe."

 

Their statement, available for sharing online, ends with these lines:

 "We join together in affirming to all public officials and policymakers that a culture of fear and isolation cannot stand. We join together in applying our gifts to sustaining a culture of compassion and justice. We stand together with generations of creative activists in communities across the nation who have been envisioning and working toward a world of equity and belonging for all."

 

In moving through these ideas and examples that turn policy development into a more commonplace activity, one overarching feature does make its way to the forefront, and it has to do with how important it is that we begin from a place of interculturality. One of the most powerful things we can do is speak to the process of governance that we've just summarized as “policy” from a tradition of solidarity with and among distinct cultures. By doing so, we turn what generally gets approached through the context or lens of history (tradition) and invariably turn it into a practice. More specifically, we reoccupy the type of work widely regarded under the banner of social practice and untie it from the ameliorative measures that it can often be associated with, measures which tend to be in the service of streamlined models of assimilation.  The ability to speak from an intercultural position not only tends to clarify any historic gloss-overs on any subordinate culture’s historic development, but, in doing so, reveals an ongoing practice of solidarity between subordinate communities, one that is incredibly present today. An additional effect of intercultural work is that it also helps underscore agency and autonomy in our communities, which helps make our work less vulnerable to unknowingly being pawned or placed in the service of mainstream causes whose targeted goals may be less aligned with our own.

 

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ABOUT NALAC:

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation's leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts field. In this capacity, NALAC stimulates and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.

 

For more information visit our website at www.nalac.org or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Nalac.arts1.

 
 
 

 ILI 20150928 day2 0721Above: Intercultural Leadership Institute participants and the San Antonio community gathered at La Fonda for a Welcome Reception and Dinner this fall. Photo by Luis M. Garza.


A Model for Equity: Diversity and Inclusion

 

As members of a larger national and international field of activity, one that prioritizes the value that artistic and cultural practices have for our many communities, NALAC participates in conversations on issues which may be internal to a particular region or population and, at the same time, we are also part of broader discussions about precisely how our field itself is organized and shaped. These are usually good opportunities to consider not only the more external social forces that influence and often motivate how our organizational activities -thru programming, initiatives, or actionable measures- are in the end structured, but also how the very nature of our own individual participation can determine or at least enable the shape, dynamics, and just as easily the unresolved conflicts within our field of arts and culture(s).

 

Two themes that commonly appear as topics in these macro-level discussions, although usually in some mystified form, are diversity and inclusion. Quite often, these terms are used in ways that blur two very distinct ideas. On other occasions, they are used to implement policies and recommendations whose goals counteract the ideals that these two terms stand for, a strategy we will address further ahead. We view these as a chance to at the very least normalize some thoughtful, candid, and nuanced dialogue about what diversity and inclusion can mean in the 21st century, in order to move beyond its mere discussion by actually working toward its realization. And what better time than now?

 

If we consider the most recurring misconceptions about these two very different terms -diversity and inclusion-, they have to do with either making them interchangeable –so that they both end up meaning the same thing- or with suggesting that if we’ve got one, then we’ve automatically got the other. Either way, the point is that a lack of clarity on what these two concepts are about is a great way of not realizing them. And so we must ask: is diversity the same thing as inclusion? If we manage to create an environment of inclusion, does that mean we have diversity? Is it true that we can have diversity without any inclusion? And finally, perhaps the most powerful question, why does it matter that we achieve either of these equitable goals?

 

The strange part is that, under most conditions, it doesn’t matter. In fact, diversity and inclusion –or D&I- only matter within a framework of democracy, within a shared political context through which we’re all recognized as equals: democracy being itself that framework which, in the end, presents us with equality. There have been, of course, all too many other socio-politico models in our recent past that also tried to arrive at democracy -a goal that we ourselves are still distant from- by managing or curtailing the obverse dynamics of a capitalist economy, an economic model whose smooth functioning naturally undermines equality. So then, perhaps, the core of our predicament lies in how to move past what's generally referred to as the crisis or failure of modern representation, which is where we believe D&I can serve as a model for transcending said crisis/failure. In short, we at NALAC believe diversity and inclusion to be a model for equity. 

 

 

is diversity the same thing as inclusion?

 

 

So let’s start by looking at some working definitions of D&I taken from three distinct yet overlapping institutional coordinates: the private sector, our public body of governance, and academia. PepsiCo defines “diversity as all the unique characteristics that make up each of us: personality, lifestyle, thought processes, work experience, ethnicity, race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, disability, veteran status or other differences.” Furthermore, their corporate view of inclusion means a “workplace culture that values different perspectives, builds employee engagement, fosters creativity, fuels innovation and helps us attract the very best talent.” (our italics)

 

An example from our most immediate public consortium, the nation-state, hails from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Their 2011 document, Guidance for Agency-Specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plans, defines “…workforce diversity as a collection of individual attributes that together help agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include, but are not limited to, characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. The concept also encompasses differences among people concerning where they are from and where they have lived and their differences of thought and life experiences. We define inclusion as a culture that connects each employee to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and leverages diversity throughout the organization so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential.” (our italics)

 

This last definition comes from our knowledge-based institutional networks, or academia, through UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity & Inclusion which provides a glossary that defines D&I in the following manner: “Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another …A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender …but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values. Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate …It is the "active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity — in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in (intellectual, social, cultural, and geographical) communities with which individuals might connect — in ways that increase one's awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions (Clayton-Pedersen, O’Neil, and Musil: 2007).” (our italics)

 

By now it’s clear that, despite their distinct origin and context, there’s significant overlap between these descriptions of D&I. We could attribute that, perhaps, to just how present such ideas are within these varied organizational structures while they continue to evolve and while they seek to realize their promising potential. In reality though, as last year’s report from Deloitte University Press indicates, there’s an astonishing gap between many organizations’ statements on or goals toward diversity and their implementation of said goals, which is one major reason why a record number of corporate clients are either reviving and rebuilding their diversity programs.

 

Still, the deliberate prevalence of our topic along with the projected increase of cross-sector inclusion programs suggests that there is a sense in which its importance is clear, and that we’d be pretty hard-pressed, at this point, to find any agents or entities presumably operating within the public, private, or knowledge-based sectors that would experience confusion over D&I.

 

 

“To thrive in the long term, it is crucial that museums bring the demographic profile of their staff into alignment with that of the communities they serve.” 

 

 

For if diversity is just an aspect of a situation or a property of an activity, and inclusion is merely the process or mechanism by which such activities and situations take place, then our own field of arts and culture(s) has the creative advantage to achieve this state. After all, the relation we’re dealing with is, in a lot of ways, like that between form (inclusion) and content (diversity).

 

This year has indeed offered us at NALAC some particularly bold glimpses into the status of our arts organizations, arts administrators, and creative professionals of color. Particularly when it comes to our shared status in relation to our more financially prosperous counterparts within the sphere of arts and culture. We’ve caught a glimpse by way of either a study, a positional statement, or a philanthropic recommendation whose purpose has been to reveal some pretty measurable differences out in the field that have to do with employment practices, funding policy, and even donorship. Taken altogether, though, it’s easy to read these diverse efforts as a way of struggling to shape a more cohesive response to a larger concern within our shared practice -that concern being an inevitably far more diverse American landscape. This makes our struggle to ethically integrate new worlds of difference part of an ongoing phase of, shall we say, growing pains connected to the realization of equity.

 

If we recall this past March Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) put forth a remarkable Statement of Purpose on Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy meant "to increase arts funding for ALAANA (African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists, arts organizations, children, and adults" and also preface their Racial Equity Forum. It was soon after in April, during the opening for the new building of the Whitney Museum of American Art, that our First Lady Michelle Obama made her timely remarks sharing how "there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood. In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum." Needless to say, the July release of a crucial Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation brought the dynamics of our dominant museums' internal culture into sharper focus through a set of poignant findings. Key among these was how "Non-Hispanic White staff continue to dominate the job categories most closely associated with the intellectual and educational mission of museums, including those of curators, conservators, educators, and leadership. In that subset of positions, 84% is Non-Hispanic White, 6% Asian, 4% Black, 3% Hispanic White, and 3% Two or More Races.  With the exception of the Asian demographic category, which makes up 5% of the United States population today, these proportions do not come close to representing the diversity of the American population."

 

The report’s press release was accompanied by two comments that helped intentionalize its core findings and information. The first was from Susan Taylor, then President of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), who stated that the "entire field is now better prepared to encourage the changes that will be necessary if U.S. art museums are to reflect, and address, the increasing diversity of the American people." The second was from Elizabeth Merritt, Director of the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Center for the Future of Museums, who succinctly expressed that "To thrive in the long term, it is crucial that museums bring the demographic profile of their staff into alignment with that of the communities they serve. This will require challenging a broad range of assumptions about how museums train, recruit and manage the staff responsible for collections, interpretation, education and leadership of our institutions.  And it will require taking a hard, uncomfortable look at the conscious and unconscious influences that have shaped our institutional culture and created the current imbalance."(our italics)

 

Stranger still is how the findings of this report -exclusionary culture and a balanced sameness- eerily converged with the findings of a revised report on employee demographic for fourteen of the largest Tech companies published by Fortune that same month. This scenario was underscored again in August by an L.A. Times article announcing how Twitter “plans to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the U.S. from 10% to 11% overall, and from 7% to 9% in tech roles. It also wants to see the number of underrepresented minorities in leadership roles rise to 6%.”

 

Looking back, these snapshots give us an idea of what the status quo is or what the existing state of affairs is in the sphere we work in. And although these recent statements, reports, and demographics are ways of commenting on the rare and weakened conditions of/for inclusion, they nevertheless come from an informed position or, at least, from a position that knows the benefits that D&I bring in terms of our country’s economic performance for example. Due to a broad understanding of D&I's function as engines for innovation, the commenting sources remain oriented towards a future that favors equity. This perception is not uncommon throughout private, public, pedagogical, NGO, or foundational sectors where the adaptive organizational features that our topic makes feasible along with the complex or optimized interactions that are consequently made possible are mutually grasped. In other words, the immanent potential for transformative capital growth –both financial and symbolic- that our topic represents for incentivized stakeholders is a difficult thing to overlook.

 

 

Difficult, but not impossible.

 

 

By that we mean there certainly are examples of glimpses from this year that position themselves away from the values we have just described. An easy example would be the latest study by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, Diversity In The Arts: The Past, Present, and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies, published this September. The report was overseen by Michael Kaiser, DeVos Institute Chairman and former Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President, who was interviewed in a corresponding L.A. Times article where he commented on the nature of this endeavor. The article shared two of the key findings, one of which was “that minority-focused arts organizations’ most debilitating weakness has been difficulty in attracting private, individual donors, a demographic whose charitable giving far exceeds the grantmaking of foundations, corporations and government.” The report itself finds this to be “the most important single statistic in the study” though oddly encourages funders to instead support “a limited number of organizations with larger grants to a smaller cohort that can manage themselves effectively, make the best art, and have the biggest impact on their communities.”

 

Let’s pause and think for a moment.

 

By now, several aspects of this particular study have been called into question –from its methodology to its instrumental and co-optable value- but there is a far simpler quality to be noticed. Let’s consider the central logic: based on the tenet that arts organizations of color are under-resourced, underfunded, and working to expand an under-developed donor base, the proposed solution is to redistribute available resources to our dominant network of arts institutions, which already possess an asymmetrical portion of wealth resources, foundational support, and donor base. This line of thinking is usually called circular reasoning. In this case it is also specifically prescriptive. By that we mean that it specifically restates the problem as if it was the solution. In other words, because of our dominant institutions’ “chronic” inequality and inability to implement D&I (refer to previous portion of this article), philanthropy and donors should minimally support arts organizations of color and rather concentrate funding toward our dominant institutions. Or, if put another way, arts organizations of color that often emerged out of poorer communities as a response to the previously described inequities are struggling fiscally therefore we must reallocate the vast majority of our available resources to the institutions they’ve primarily been excluded from. Approached from a purely economic position, we could restate the findings as such: because poverty is a permanent condition of our current economic order, we should reroute our palliative efforts to instead support the sources of that condition. One could go on. And the reason one could go on is because the report's recommendations are crafted in a way that blur and consequently mask two complementary flows or movements of consolidation: on the one hand, support for dominant institutions is being consolidated, whereas on the other, Black and Latin@ organizations are being asked to consolidate their vying for a now more limited support.

 

Let’s rather look at some elements that are generally overlooked by studies -such as this last one- whose primary effect is to curb the types of mobilization necessary for realizing D&I through the scope of our work together in the field. For example, if we encourage the redirection of entrepreneurial and philanthropic investment (art donors and funders included) toward our already most-successful institutions, then we should not be surprised if this redirected support flows along the stratified lines of antiquated social hierarchies -precisely the fixed hierarchies (often along class and racial/ethnic divisions) that our topic seeks to overcome. Therefore, the goals of D&I encourage donors and funders to diversify their support streams based on the significance and function of an organization's or institution's goals rather than consolidate along hegemonic lines.

 

The other element of the equation that tends to be overlooked is the counterpart to the more material types of support resources (financial, real estate, and so on), that is, the less tangible resource of time, or the often eluded temporal resource. If we look at the dominant organizations that emerged out of the kinds of prescribed and hierarchical institutional layouts put forth by these more regressive studies, one can see the prized role that time has played in their successful development. In other words, institutions of this order now possess a history through which they were vested by public and private resources that in turn translated into leverage for garnering the support of individual donors. In time, individual donors grew to become the broader base of support we call donorship. The crucial temporal resource was the time necessary for the previously described long-term support to take effect.

 

The inevitable question becomes: why would it seem feasible that our organizations of color (color not being reduced/distorted to Black and Latin@) would not need or stand to benefit from that kind of long-term investment?

 

On yet another level, studies in the service of (economic) demobilization tend to erase all ethnicities from the spectrum but black and brown. This is a major disservice to artists and arts organizations of all color that have worked far too long to empower each other, to foster solidarity, and to purposely bridge our limitations by working together through regenerative models. It’s thus disappointing when our intercultural familia undergoes facile erasures or has to evade projected divisions. The uneven outcomes of such inaccuracies also yield overt distortions that do not help prompt a better understanding of our white familia. Understanding structures of whiteness is one thing (and by now a requirement for navigating and ideally altering stratified or congealed social orders), but one would be deeply mistaken to confuse that with the realities of our myriad white ethnicities -the vast majority of which are seldom financially wealthy, strictly Eurocentric, heteronormative, or simply homogeneous.

 

So, after offering a brief description of the main features that characterize the purpose, use, and propensities of D&I, we can see the kinds of effects it suggests for our sphere of activity. And like any other concern that also happens to be an expression of social justice, it's path of realization will no doubt encounter push-and-pulls from many directions (as our examples illustrate). So it will be up to our collaborative field of imaginers and creative practitioners to rotate the dial in order to move beyond this frame, in search of more just conditions. Because although Diversity and Inclusion are, strangely enough, also in line with current imperatives of our economic order, equity is still a rather more elusive commodity. 

 

 

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ABOUT NALAC:

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation's leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts field. In this capacity, NALAC stimulates and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.

 

For more information visit our website at www.nalac.org or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Nalac.arts1.

 
 
 
NALAC 20150323 ILIPlanning 0011
Intercultural Work: A Project Towards Equity
 

NALAC is incredibly fortunate and therefore proud of the opportunities we have to collaborate with and learn from different organizations that work with culturally specific communities in efforts to elevate the appreciation, understanding, and support of creative expression. In 2004, these values helped initiate our relationship with Alternate Roots and First Peoples Fund as we joined the Ford Foundation's New Works Cohort . It was through that support and setting that we began to recognize the commonalities in the histories of our communities and understand each other's distinct cultural practices. Consequent long term support from the Ford Foundation made our continued interaction possible. The relations that grew from this experience were a result of dialogue, mutual respect, and an ongoing awareness of the inherent strength, knowledges, and creativity in the communities that guide each unique organization.

 

We could say that, in many ways, these initiatives set forth the conditions necessary for the realization of something truly new in our field. Part of that newness is the emergence of an intercultural network through our core partnership with First Peoples Fund, Alternate Roots, and PA’I Foundation as well as collaborative partnerships with other organizations working to address issues of social justice, inclusion, and representation. "This investment of support over a long period of time was the catalyst that made our intercultural work possible", says our own Maria De Leon, "such intentionality allowed us to transform ourselves and our networks strategically, so that our values of equity and justice are repositioned at the center of a national arts dialogue." One especially meaningful and exciting result of our shared commitment to work together on projects, ideas, and policies that benefit the lived experiences of our varied constituents is the collaborative creation of an Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI).

 

The Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) is part of an extensive, joint leadership initiative that reflects an intercultural sector whose goal is to achieve cultural equity through heightened solidarity among artists, administrators, funders, and culture bearers. According to Vicky Holt Takamine, Executive Director of PA'I Foundation, "the Intercultural Leadership Institute will formalize the relationships that have organically grown out of our convenings and provide structure and support for the leadership development projects that we know are especially valuable to the continuous struggle for social justice in our communities". In its entirety the program is one year and begins with three weeklong intensive trainings in three distinct regions of the country. The curriculum developed for this initial phase is itself the result of a decisive intercultural and strategic cooperative process, one based on an ethics of difference, inclusion, and empowerment. As described by Carlton Turner, Executive Director of Alternate Roots, " the spirit of the work is in tune with the aspirations of our communities: the desire to live their lives to the fullest potential and show deep respect for each other -this is where our work intersects across cultures." Within this context of intersectionality, where our commonalities are no less present and where the value of collaborations or alliances between a spectrum of social identities is clear, a group of up to 25 intergenerational leaders from diverse historical, racial, and ethnic backgrounds will convene to gain more robust levels of leadership and management competencies.

 

Our partner organizations themselves are each deeply engaged with leadership initiatives that demonstrate a complex understanding of what is necessary -and what is at stake- when it comes to building sustainable, collective, and just practices amidst a professional field where less egalitarian trends can all too often seem at the helm. For example, Lori Pourier, President of First Peoples Fund indicates their support of "artists and culture bearers from across Indian Country, Hawaii and Alaska through our three programs, the Community Spirit honorees, the Artist in Business Leadership and Cultural Capital; our place-based work supports leadership development through our nonprofit partnerships with Native Community Development Financial Institutions.” Correspondingly, Alternate Roots has a weeklong convening for over 200 artists each summer called Roots Week that Carlton Turner describes "is a space that supports networking, professional development, artistic development, and critical analysis -this event has been going strong for almost forty years."

 

These efforts are joined by NALAC's Leadership Institute (NLI) and Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI). In its 15th year, the NLI is a week-long rigorous program in arts management and leadership development that delivers innovative and practical strategies for successful business practices in the arts -its goals are to foster core capacities in areas that include arts management, networking, marketing, and fund development. The ALI is a three-day intensive, hands-on training that builds advocacy skills and knowledge about the role of government and public institutions in the field of arts and social justice. It takes place in Washington, D.C., where Congressional Staff and experienced arts advocates impart a deeper understanding of the frameworks involved in shaping cultural policy and its consequent impact on Latino artistic production.

 

As a result, the ILI benefits from and is a direct response to the individual work of each partner. Yet the challenge is how to envision new ways of doing between communities of color -ways to intervene or really alter deep, systemic flaws that regulate and overdetermine our effects on the broader field. In other words, our goal is to produce new forms of understanding and knowledge-building instead of new categories of apportionment and pseudo-belongings that can nonetheless still be vertically arranged in some kind of social hierarchy.

 

The key to avoiding such pitfalls is perhaps found in our embrace of 'interculturality' rather than a multicultural or cross-cultural approach. Multiculturalism allows for a social order where distinct groups live alongside each other and emphasizes tolerance as a primary value -for the most part because power differentials are kept unaddressed.  Cross-culturalism implies dialogue across some social boundaries and grants comparative representation or the comparison of chosen cultural aspects between groups, but ultimately considers each community separately or definitely in relation to an overseeing and far dominant community. Interculturalism, on the other hand, implies lateral interaction between different communities and renders culture a matter of group creation with justice, equality, and purposeful togetherness at the forefront. Such culture of interactivity prompted the ILI.

 

When Lori Pourier states how "the value of the ILI collaborative is that it is founded on trust, compassion and commitment by the partnering organizations", her words locate aspects of our situation which, if cultivated, can change the most basic coordinates of our shared awareness and, ideally, of our communitarian practices. Although we know ourselves, our partners, members, and colleagues as part of a tangible network with our sights set on immediate, concrete progress, we also understand each other as an open group of imaginers. At the core of this imagining lies a palpable shift from 'tolerance' towards 'solidarity'. Vicky Holt Takamine encapsulates this responsiveness when sharing her excitement and inspiration "to continue the collaborative work to develop opportunities for the next generation of artists working at the intersection of arts and social justice -to connect, support and collaborate with each other to strengthen their individual work as well as to support a national movement".

 

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ABOUT NALAC:

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation's leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts field. In this capacity, NALAC stimulates and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.

For more information visit our website at www.nalac.org or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Nalac.arts1.

Main photo: Intercultural Leadership Institute Planning Meeting in San Antonio, TX Site Visit to Mujer Artes, Patricia de la Garza, Mujer Artes; Lorie Pourier, Fisrt People's Fund; Keryl McCord, Alternate Roots, Photograph by Luis M Garza.