We believe that all people are whole and perfect exactly as they are – and that includes the color of someone’s skin.
The word “inclusive” has layered and nuanced meanings. At Inclusive Arts Vermont, we enter the broader conversation and work of inclusion through the lens of disability. As an organization, we believe in mutual growth and lifelong learning and therefore, we intentionally seek collaborations with organizations engaging diverse populations as we work to build inclusive communities throughout Vermont.
Our organization was a creation of the disability rights movement. We were made to ensure that, through the arts, the voices of people with disabilities are celebrated and heard.
As our friends at Vermont Arts Council said, arts organizations “have a deep responsibility in the present moment, to stand against hatred and racial injustice. We often say that the arts promote empathy, that a great painting, sculpture, or poem has the power to lift us above our divisions and inspire us to transcend our personal point of view, to stand in the shoes of another. Now is the time to be true to those values.”Vermont Arts Council, June 2020
Disability does not discriminate. It affects all populations regardless of income, gender, location, or skin color. We recognize that people of color are particularly underrepresented in the arts, and within our own organization. We own this lacking and want you to know that we are committed to changing it throughout all our systems: programming, messaging, staff, and board alike.
In June, in response to the continued unjust killing of Black people and ensuing protests, we released a note to our community. In that message, we recognized that we had our own work to do to become not just friendly allies in racial justice work, but a truly anti-racist organization. We recognized that statements and good intent to don’t change broken systems, actions and hard work do.
Here is what we’re doing to take action towards change within our organization:
- Our management team has immersed themselves in materials from anti-racist experts. This includes reading, listening to, watching, and then processing. As a group, our team comes together bi-monthly to have a discussion based on how we can implement what we’ve learned into our work. For a list of content we recommend, check out our resources page.
- We have removed educational requirements from hiring practices. It is known that BIPOC have less access to higher education as a result of centuries-long systemic inequities, and requiring advanced degrees for applications is an inherently racist practice.
- We list being an active participant in anti-racism work as a requirement and responsibility on job descriptions for all new positions, and actively discuss this work in the interview process.
- We are holding a roundtable with community leaders on the intersection of skin tone and verbal description. The information from this work will be used to shape best practices in describing skin tone and appearance in verbal descriptions.
- Start With The Arts, our arts-based literacy program for preschoolers, has updated its booklist to include more books by BIPOC authors or with main characters that are BIPOC.
- Our board of directors has committed to diversifying our group to include more BIPOC, people with disabilities, and artists.
- We are using our social media platforms to amplify the voices of BIPOC artists with disabilities.
We acknowledge that anti-racist work is a continual process, and we are committed to this ongoing work as a major tenet of our organizational practice. If you have questions about our anti-racism work, or resources or thoughts to share, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to listen to and learn from you.