There's one part of the whole diversity in the arts conversation that confuses me.
It's the part where somebody (normally a well meaning person) says something like: "How do we help a theatre, for example, understand diversity is important?"
It's damn near 2010.
I have difficultly believing that anyone in a position of leadership in the arts doesn't know that:
1. There are a lot of different people, cultures and points of view in the world
2. Generally, an organization that brings these points of view, cultures, etc. into their world will be better off for it.
It's not like diversity is a new concept. There has been a truckload of research establishing "best practices" in the field for decades.
For example, it's pretty well established that any successful effort to diversify an organization must include the following:
Support for the top levels of the company.
Money to invest in effort
If an arts organization is talking about a diversity effort that doesn't include significant amounts of those three things, then you don't need to take the effort seriously.
You can assume it's a token effort, designed to make themselves feel good, or impress funders, or whatever.
But again, it's not like that's news. People have known that for years.
When it comes to diversity in the arts, organizations now break down into four categories:
1. The Sincere Effort Group - They have the support, the money and the time. At most these groups will need help and guidance on the strategy side of the ledger. They want to diversify, but they may not be sure how, or confident in their ability to do so.
This group deserves all the help, encouragement and guidance they can get.
2. The Scared - These people have some sort of fear barrier stopping them from diversifying. Fear of losing audience. Fear of losing money. Whatever.
This group should be supported and encouraged . . . to a point. Some organizations spend their entire life cycle scared, that's just how it goes.
3. The "Other Priority" Group - These organizations have decide, for whatever reasons, that other initiatives are more important then a diversity effort.
I think we, as an industry, should respect the decision this group makes. Maybe it's a bad decision. Hell, it is probably a bad decision. But groups have the right to make bad decisions.
4. The "No Desire" Group - This group has no desire to diversify. Who really cares why they feel that way? The only thing that matters is that they made that choice. Again, that's a perfectly acceptable decision to make.
I think our job as a field is to look at each organization and figure out which "diversity category" they fit in.
Then we deal with them accordingly.
Our job is not to move people from one category to another.
That's a choice only they can make.
Embrace the ones that want change. Support the ones that need help. Wish the rest of them the best of luck and send them on their merry way.