The arts by their very nature are inclusive. They are trans-generational, transformative, transgender. The arts speak to multiple platforms and break economic barriers, language barriers and color lines. The arts are diverse! The arts are many, they are beautiful, they are fulfilling. There is enough to go around.
So why is it a struggle? Why is it hard for us to be inclusive and diverse in our arts programming? It almost doesn't make sense to have issues in diversity in one of the most cross-cultural subjects there is.
We need to understand that people are changing, cities are changing. What we once thought of as young and inexperienced is now fresh and original. And who we've always thought of as the minority will soon be the majority. Culture is changing - who we are and what we look like is evolving before our eyes.
What does that mean for the arts scene? And why aren't the arts reflecting the change of its community?
The lifespan of our arts organizations depend on diversity. If sustainability is in the question, inclusion can't be left out of the answer. It is no longer optional. The arts have to be reflective of the community and our community is changing. The Latino population is the fastest growing in Marion County. The rate at which this culture is growing jumped 422% from 1997 to 2004. It's a new city. That means, if the arts community is to properly reflect our city's community, our arts administrators should begin to look different, our choreographers and conductors and opera singers should speak more languages, right? If we want audiences of color to feel invited and welcome, to feel like they have been thought of in a planning process, they need to see a glimpse of themselves in the organization and on the stage.
The answer is in authenticity. It has to start from the inside and at the top levels of management. There has to be an understanding of the changing community and an intentional inclusion plan that spans from marketing down to the way people are greeted at venues. And the easiest way to understand the new community is to bring them to the inside.
I am fearful that our arts orgs are not prepared for the new community. This is major - who we've always thought of as a minority population (blacks and maybe Latinos) will be more than half (also known as The Majority) by 2040. Indy's arts scene has to learn the market. We must immerse ourselves into the cultures of others and really know who they are and what they want. We almost literally have to become the market.
When I think about it, it actually seems hard to struggle with diversity within the arts because it's such a universal language. How did we get here? Short are the days in which we can say diversity is a priority and not act on it. There will soon be enough people to call our bluff.