There’s never been a shake-up of the arts, all across America, like this year’s double-whammy of a global pandemic and a nationwide protest movement against institutional racism.
A new report on the Portland-Vancouver arts scene says this dramatic disruption — with arts organizations starving for ticket sales, cutting their already-meager payrolls and soul-searching about their commitments to social justice — is both a major challenge and a major opportunity.
Arts organizations should use this time to bolster their outreach for political and financial support, develop partnerships or merge with peer groups and get creative about affordable space, the report says. Crucially, they must also recommit to diversity, equity and addressing in-house race and bias issues.
“The jury is still out” about progress on that front, said report author Michael Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland and a recognized turnaround expert for struggling arts organizations. Many have declared good intentions, but “measurable actions” to overcome bias and racism will take longer to assess, he said.
The Vancouver-based M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust sponsored the report.
“The arts are a vehicle to bring people together,” said Steve Moore, the trust’s executive director. “The most challenging issues and the most inspirational pathways to solutions come to us through the arts.”