The Arts Council’s Grants Program Manager Hannah Garcia is taking on a new challenge – she is now also our Equity Catalyst.
We sat down with her to find out more about what we mean when we talk about equity, what equity in the arts looks like, and the specific work she’ll be supporting to help the Arts Council on our journey to being a more inclusive and equitable organization.
Tell us about your new job!
My new position as Equity Catalyst will focus on supporting our journey towards becoming a more racially and socially just organization. We received a one-year grant from Hewlett Foundation to help us launch this work. During this year, I’ll be working with our staff team to build equity and inclusion into our roles, programs, how we work, how we build community and more.
Equity is something people talk about a lot. What does it mean and why is it important for us to focus on?
Equity is about building bridges where there’s been separation, and sharing power and resources where there’s been a lack of investment. Essentially, it’s about balancing the scales where there’s been historic unfairness or injustice. In order to do this, we have to connect more deeply to our hearts, build relationships, and have real conversations about how we can work together across our community’s divides.
This work is important to us as an arts funder, collaborator, and leader because we have a big role to play in how fair our arts ecosystem is. We have the opportunity to invest in groups that have been historically underrepresented, particularly in communities of color and start talking about the role that arts can play in social justice.
What’s the goal?
Our goal is to uphold the dignity of all artists and organizations by moving from unintentional exclusion to intentional inclusion. Our work will aim to uplift, celebrate, and invest in artistic and cultural work that historically hasn’t been fairly recognized or invested in. By building bridges, sharing power, and getting creative about how to address racial and cultural inequities, not only will we help create a stronger, more thriving arts ecosystem, we’ll also support a more fair and just community for everyone.
What’s the first step?
The first step is recognizing that power, privilege, and resources are distributed unfairly, and have been throughout history. We’re working to genuinely understand just how complex racial and cultural injustice is, and take an honest look at what our role is in addressing or furthering it. It’s a lot of learning! As a society, we’re not used to looking closely at how to address discriminatory systems like racism, sexism or ableism in our organizations. We’re working on taking that close look within our own organization now, so we can shine a light on areas where we can improve. All of our staff members are currently working on equity assessments of ourselves, our programs, and our organization. We’re talking about the strengths and challenges we see, pointing out any gaps or biases, and looking for opportunities to be more equitable and inclusive in our work. Then we can learn how to support equity in the arts throughout our county.
This journey toward equity and justice won’t be easy – any major change from the status quo rarely is. We’ve all been heavily conditioned to accept our world the way it was presented to us from childhood. It’s going to take courage to find our blind spots and biases, and to develop greater social and racial literacy in a time when it’s desperately needed. We invite you and hope you’ll join us on this collective learning journey!
Any resources you’d recommend for where to learn more?
Yes, there are a number of great books, blogs and resources!
Articles and Blogs
- Nonprofit AF, Vu Lee
- The Effect of Intersectionality in the Workplace
- Intersectional Disability Activism
- So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
- White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
- Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
- Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis
- Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- City of Salinas’ work with Race Forward
- The Power of an Illusion, PBS
- Sexuality and the Gender Spectrum, Bill Nye on YouTube