By Ryan Deal, Program Assistant, Cultural & Community Investment
Last Friday morning a group of 60 arts, science and history leaders made their way to the ASC Board Room for a three hour facilitated discussion around making the board and staff of their respective organizations more diverse and inclusive. This Diversity & Inclusion Initiative is a project made possible through funding from ASC and Crossroads Charlotte.
The ASC task force charged with leading this project has defined Diversity as elements of difference including gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, age, culture, socio-economic status, geographic background, faith/religion, sexual orientation, profession, area of residence and length of time in the Charlotte area. Using survey data collected from each of the organizations, the assumption that our staffs and boards do not accurately reflect the “melting pot” population of Charlotte-Mecklenburg was confirmed.
This month’s session focused on the concept of access – what it means to us individually, as organizations and in turn, what it means to our audiences. Participants shared their personal and professional concerns about barriers and challenges that prevent this work from being done but perhaps most importantly, the opportunities for advancement that breaking down those barriers and challenges will bring.
I consider it a unique privilege to be involved in the cultural fiber of Charlotte wearing the hats of an arts administration professional, a regular audience member, and a professional musician. But last Friday, it felt even more special – because I witnessed firsthand the leadership of some of the county’s most notable organizations having (quite candidly) a very important conversation, and in almost unison confirming that the time to embrace diversity and make everyone feel included is now! Several even suggested that the word “Initiative” was inappropriate for this project – that challenging these norms is now the new way of working and must be consistently upheld.
The success of this project is imperative and a win-win. New faces, perspectives and ideals will be brought to the tables of our workplaces which will in turn open the doors of our facilities to new audiences for new experiences – and in a way that makes all feel represented, and included.
If I sound proud, it’s because I am. And you should be too. This is important work and it’s being done by a group of people who are passionate and committed.