Saturday, October 17, 2015

Community Arts and Cultural Equity in Queens

Group shot at QCA after Cultural Equity discussion.

Being an artist and a resident of Queens, NY for the last eight years or so, I was lucky to come across the Queens Council on the Arts. A few years back, they moved their headquarters to a nice bright space in Astoria. QCA offers lots of great things for artists and arts professionals; such as grant-writing workshops, art labs and other resources and events (I've attended a few of them, like grant-writing and fiscal sponsorship workshops). Recently I received an invitation to attend a panel discussion posing the question, “How Can We Change the Future of Arts and Communities Through Cultural Equity?” This seemed like it would be right up my alley, so I registered for the event on Tuesday, September 29th

The panel was lead by Janice Bond, Cultural Curator and Arts Advocate in Chicago and Jason Tseng, Community Specialist for Fractured Atlas in NYC. I was impressed with how they dove straight in to some hard-to-discuss topics like white privilege, colonial mindsets and language equality – and I thought they did a great job of unpacking it all along with the audience (many of whom participated in the “fish bowl” inclusive discussion). After identifying some of these complicated systems and hurdles that people (in this case, artists) come up against, the room seemed really ripe for more. We wanted to dig deeper and some people were piping up to ask for specific solutions, but our two hours were almost up. So the moderator, Zahida Pirani jumped in and posed an important proposition. She said that she has been thinking about forming an artist leadership network specifically for Queens; and she asked if anyone in the room would be interested in joining the steering committee. I raised my hand, along with a handful of other people in the room and she quickly jotted down our names.

In the end, I don't think it would have even been possible to answer such a big question in one sitting (“How Can We Change the Future of Arts and Communities Through Cultural Equity?"). But I do think that we came away with something huge; a step towards building a network and towards developing more culturally equitable opportunities for artists in Queens and beyond. Since the discussion, a group of us have been communicating and will soon be having or first Queens Artist Steering Committee meeting. I am looking forward to it!

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