The Metro Nashville Arts Commission is taking the next step toward a more diverse local artistic community. Four years have passed since a report uncovered gaps in the city’s efforts to promote inclusion in its arts and culture institutions.
Despite signs of improvement, there’s still work to be done.
The Metro Arts Commission formed the Antiracism Transformation Team in 2017 to address concerns raised in a report produced around the same time the board was drafting a new strategic plan. Through interviews with leaders from 18 different arts-and-culture nonprofits, the author found patterns of implicit bias and systemic discrimination.
The antiracism team has been working to unpack issues exposed in the report and propose solutions. In June, the group published a report detailing the progress Metro Arts has made to diversify both its staff and the artists it supports through grants and outreach programming.
For instance, every full-time hire on the Metro Arts staff since June of 2015 has been a person of color. And, more female and minority artists have been chosen to create public works of art.
But antiracism team member Teree McCormick says the work is continuous and ongoing.
“It takes time,” she says. “No one wants to hear the reality of how much time it takes. It’s gonna take way more time than we have.”
But since members of the antiracism team don’t actually sit on the Metro Arts board, their power is limited. The commission plans to formalize the group’s work — which, at this point, has mostly taken place behind closed doors — with an official equity committee.
That committee and the antiracism team hope to work together in the coming months to find more ways to reduce discrimination within Nashville’s arts community.
“Equity’s become a buzzword. Everybody uses it with everything, without even comprehending what it really means,” says Ellen Gilbert, an anti-bias trainer who sits on the antiracism task force. “I would like to see us be the government unit in Nashville that actually … leads the way for others to actually implement policy changes that are actually effective and proactive.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.