Diversity Training with the Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond | City of Ideas

Posted 01/01/2013 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
Boston has long struggled to foster a diverse workforce, and the arts are not immune from this systemic lack of color in our professional landscape.

For the arts sector, the issue is two-pronged: 

1. Artists and arts professionals of color are moving to other cities because of a perceived lack of opportunity in Boston;

2. Due to this talent migration, we lack a diverse pool of arts practitioners to develop work that reflects the interests and needs of audiences of color.

These issues are stalling our ability to build a diverse workforce, and are compounded by a lack of shared language around diversity in our sector, and in our city. 

We are committed to engage more powerfully and proactively with this issue, and to gain a deeper understanding of what racism is, how it affects our city and our work, and how a shared language can help to define and address these long-standing issues that are preventing us from building diversity in our ranks and representation at the staff, board, artistic, program and audience levels. To develop this critical language, we are seeking support to undertake diversity training with The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond.

Project Proposed:
Individually, the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA), Actor’s Shakespeare Project (ASP) and Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) have wrestled with how to develop the language to talk about issues of diversity and how to incorporate it into our own organizational cultures. Together, we have decided to provide a shared training session for our boards and staff with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. We are seeking $15,000 to host a multi-day training during which each of our three organizations will send 12 of its strongest influencers, including staff, board and key stakeholders from each organization – including artists and parents.

If we believe the world will be a better, richer, more meaningful place with more voices at the table, with power, then we have to start with the voices we have shaping our own work and understand the context for these voices.

Together, our three organizations can begin to make the necessary inroads in the sector to determine and design how we collectively attract and serve artists of color, and how we reach audiences of color in a holistic way to create a more diversified voice for the arts sector Boston and a more representative workforce for our sector.

Role of Collaboration:
Separately, we have each participated in many conversations around diversity, which usually end in frustration. We envision our joint effort as a lynchpin for change not only in our organizations and the communities we serve, but for the arts sector as a whole. Although our organizations share the arts in our missions, we serve distinctly different constituent groups – offering expanded spheres of influence that will resonate more broadly across the sector once we complete the training and have shared language to bring to our extensive networks.

The BCA provides resources, services and support to working artists across all genres and at all stages of their careers. From emerging to established, visual to performing, on stage to behind the scenes, the BCA is committed to serving working artists from process to product.

In addition to its productions, ASP works with court-involved youth aged 12–17 through teacher-training programs with English Language Arts, Theater, and Social Studies teachers working within DYS facilities, and with youth in transition out of DYS facilities through their after-school and summer programming.

Despite having “Boston” in its name, BCC draws young people from across socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic boundaries, using music and performance as an equalizer and unifier.

Through this collaboration, the Boston Center for the Arts, Actors' Shakespeare Project and Boston Children's Chorus will build a community of knowledge and practice with a shared language around racial justice issues and challenges. We do this together in hopes that together we can be a catalyst for deeper learning and understanding across the arts/culture sector – a sector that has a unique and invaluable role in fostering an effective civil society.

Each of our organizations is plugged into distinct and different segments of our sector and brings a collective cross-section of networks to this partnership. A universal refrain across these networks is that "we need to be more diverse, we need to connect more with the community, we need to develop audiences of color,” and yet the larger sector often talks in circles without real strategies, root cause understanding, or shared vocabulary. This training will create a shared understanding, discussion and debate amongst the three partners that will then be shared with these networks, giving some strategic direction and momentum to provide Boston's arts and youth arts sectors with the elusive shared language around diversity that we are all desperately seeking. This work has the potential to help shape and frame the discussions and actions of large groups of organizations, funders and artists, and ultimately help to define the work we do, with and for whom we do it, and how it impacts our city.

Other information:
Although Boston’s colleges and universities may draw diverse students for training and education, once graduates leave school there is the perception that there are no opportunities for people of color in the arts. We have a real opportunity to bridge the current gap of Boston as a hub of diversity for students and a place of opportunity for practitioners.

Each organization has the capacity and potential to reach different circles across the arts and the non-profit sector, and this is reflected in each of its board and stakeholder groups as well. The BCA, ASP and BCC all have board members and stakeholders that serve on other boards, working groups and professional and civic associations through which this shared language can be implemented for an even larger, holistic impact. The three partners in this effort see our role as two-fold: to help develop the language and then to foster the essential “ripple effect” necessary to ensure that that language is shared and adopted across the sector, city and beyond. 

Primary Contact:
Veronique Le Melle is the President & CEO of the Boston Center for the Arts, Since joining the organization in January 2009, Veronique has revitalized BCA programs, spearheaded initiatives to increase services for working artists, and explored ways to connect with youth and community organizations in the South End.

Before coming to Boston, Veronique led the Louisiana Division of the Arts from the spring of 2005. As the Division’s Executive Director, she successfully restructured Louisiana’s Grants Program and implemented a streamlined grant application process. During her tenure, she was also instrumental in creating the structure and mission for Louisiana’s first private cultural foundation, the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation.

Before moving south, Veronique worked for four years in the Office of Queens Borough President as the Director of Culture and Tourism. Her responsibilities included the oversight of cultural policy, grants administration and the development of tourism strategies for the Borough of Queens. Her charge was to support and advise both the established cultural institutions in Queens and new community-based arts groups who provide vital services within their neighborhoods. She was also responsible for the oversight and preservation of the borough’s historic houses and landmarks. As for her role in the borough’s tourism economy, Veronique was able to create strategic linkages between the hospitality sector and our cultural community. This often entailed facilitating dialogue between our local economic retail sectors and our resident independent artists.

From 1992 until October 2001, Veronique served as the Executive Director of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, Inc. (JCAL) which currently is enjoying its third decade as the premiere cultural and educational Center in Southeastern Queens. She first joined JCAL in 1990 as a management consultant before being appointed Deputy Director for Programs six months into her tenure. As Deputy Director for Programs, Veronique was responsible for supervision of public programs and fundraising. Her initiatives brought about stabilization in the Center’s budget and increased revenue 143% in seven years. As Executive Director, Veronique was responsible for the overall direction of the Center’s programs, operations and financial management while still maintaining contact with the Southeastern Queens community as the Center’s chief community liaison. Prior to JCAL, Veronique was the Administrative Director of Children’s Art Carnival, Executive Director of Red Hook Arts and Program Associate at the New York State Council on the Arts. Veronique is a former member of the Arts & Business Council’s Board of Trustees, as well as the national Boards of both ArtTable and Grantmakers in the Arts.

A native of Queens, New York, Veronique holds an MPA in Public Policy & Administration from Columbia University-School of International and Public Affairs, an MFA in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College, and a BA in Economics/Business Administration from Colorado College.

Partner 1:
Sara Stackhouse is Executive Producer of Actors' Shakespeare Project. Sara was the Supervising Producer of four seasons of INSIDE This Old House for the A&E television network.  She served as Project Manager for cellist Yo-Yo Ma for nearly six years, where her work included educational projects, contracts, recordings, tours, scripting and staging, and collaborations with artists such as Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor, Bobby McFerrin, Mark Morrris, Toni Morrison, Torvill & Dean, Atom Egoyan and others.  She served as Associate Producer on eight films, including Yo-Yo Ma:  Inspired by Bach, which received international awards including several Emmys.  She was the Director of Education for NPR's From the Top for nearly six years where she designed curriculum, trained teachers, and created a national Make Your Own Radio Program and a Cultural Ambassador Program for teenage artists.  As a freelancer, Sara produced A Taste of Chanukah for PBS, PRI, and Rounder Records in 1998 and was the Executive Producer of the MIT Media Lab's Toy Symphony, an international project run by Tod Machover and featuring violinist Joshua Bell and conductor Kent Nagano.  She serves as a consultant to The Berkshire Institute for Theology and the Arts. Sara received a degree in theater from Oberlin College and interned as a director at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre in 1992.

Partner 2:
David C. Howse joined the Boston Children’s Chorus in 2004. In July of 2009, he assumed the role of Executive Director in which he leads the development of strategies, policies and programmatic priorities, and oversees the operations of the organization to ensure that the planning, execution and administration of all BCC programs and systems are aligned.

David is the recipient of Root Cause’s Social Innovation Achievement Award and in 2010, he was honored with a Boston Business Journal “40 Under 40” Award, recognizing him as one of Boston’s best and brightest young executives.

Howse holds degrees from Bradley University and New England Conservatory of Music and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Next Generation Executive Leadership Program, University of Massachusetts at Boston’s Emerging Leaders Program and Boston University’s Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership.

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