How can women of color excel in the arts? Watch as 3 leaders in the arts share their sincere views and big ideas.

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Elizabeth Myong, a reporter who is part of the Arts Access partnership, opened a public panel she moderated on The Dallas Morning News Wednesday by asking about panellists’ experiences with “health in the workplace” – whether they regretted not getting more help or guidance in solving the problem. pressure of work and leadership

Kathleen Culebro, artistic director of the Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth, joked back that she didn’t understand the concept of work-life balance. When she is not working, she does not know what to do with herself. So the task of working too hard and too long was not a problem.

Instead, according to Culebro, “being treated with respect is very conducive to my mental well-being.”

She explained, “Too often our board members assume that artists need to be told how to do things in the real world, how to run a business. We’re actually pretty smart people.”

In fact, Culebro called the lack of respect “soul killing”.

Much of the lively discussion that followed revolved around the definition of “respect.”

Vicki Meek, a former longtime director of the South Dallas Cultural Center and an independent curator, critic and artist, has claimed that some women of color have been appointed to leadership positions to “tick off” gender and race. This single hire makes the institution look good despite any real, bigger issues it may have with staff or audience diversity.

In short, the woman is appointed as a PR gesture. She was never tasked with making real changes, despite what she was told or sold to the public.

“And that’s one of the strategies for getting rid of someone,” Mick said.

If a newly appointed male director cleans the house, she noted, it is considered his prerogative, selecting the people necessary to achieve the agreed goals of the board of directors.

“It’s great, he’s strong, he’s got it,” Mick said. But when a woman of color does this, she is seen as a troublemaker: “If you don’t let a man come in and build the team he needs to get the job done, you’re setting him up for failure.”

Caroline Kim, director of development for the Crow Museum of Asian Art, said the support needed is more than staff, resources and professional respect. It’s time to get enough “runway” to achieve the goals set by the board and its new director.

Myung asked about such organizational goals and metrics—what she called “traditional measures of success”—and whether women leaders should challenge that model.

“I don’t think it’s either-or,” Mick said, “because the implication is that if you bring in a leader of color, you suddenly have no money. I think it’s a myth because a lot of leaders of color have come to us and turned everything around and made money. I think what we need to do is look at the reasons the organization thinks they need change, cultural change – to expand who they are.”

Such pressure and challenges due to the respect, support and expectations of women leaders in the commercial business world has led to what has been dubbed the “Great Divide”. More women are able to take leadership positions, and more women are leaving them in desperation.

But the group also looked at four methods to counter these forces. First, increased mentorship from women of color who have weathered the winds of control in the non-profit art worlds. Lily Weiss, executive director of the Dallas Arts District (and former head of dance at Booker T. Washington High School), was in the audience and volunteered to help mentor people—and she was called in when the panel ended.

Secondly, education – increasing arts education and increasing support for arts groups so that they physically bring students to their own places, and not cheapen and simply send an actor or artist to a couple of school classes. This may bring in more funds for the art group (if the city funding is organized that way), but it also helps to “demystify” attending art events, being an artist, and even running an arts organization.

Thirdly, women leaders have learned to speak up and object when they see what is happening to them. Culebro admitted that as a woman born in Mexico City, it was especially difficult for her.

But according to Mick, many people don’t know something is wrong until someone tells them about it. She’s actually “hurtful” of not speaking up when she sees something she objects to.

And finally, voting.

Meek said, “Dallas is the least political city I know” when it comes to people involved locally in bringing about change. Dallas has a new cultural plan, a plan that funnels more money and city services to small groups of blacks and Hispanics.

“Good plan,” Mick said. But no matter how good the cultural plan is, it means nothing “unless you force politicians to do it.”

Arts Access is a partnership between Dallas Morning News and KERA, which expands the reach of local arts, music and culture through the lens of access and equity.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by Better Together Foundation, Carol and Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Texas Communities Foundation, Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James and Gail Halperin Foundation, Jennifer and Peter Altabef and The Meadows. Foundation. News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access journalism.

Any advice? Email Jerome Weeks at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.

Art&Seek was made possible thanks to the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider giving a tax-free gift today. Thank you.

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