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April 3, 2018 | News, Notes From Leadership, Race and Equity,

Introducing the ArtsEmerson Race & Equity Series

Earlier this year, The Boston Globe published an op-ed piece written by ArtsEmerson’s Executive Director David Howse and Artistic Director David Dower in response to the paper’s Spotlight series on race in the city. The Globe boldly titled the series, “BOSTON. RACE. IMAGE. REALITY.”, and used it to explore both the perception and the reality underlying Boston’s reputation as a racist city by investigating various sectors of civic life here.  While we were pleased to see the series — and are grateful for the discussions it has provoked since being published — we were disappointed it had not included a look at the Boston arts community. Our op-ed was aimed at beginning to address what felt like an oversight.


Our op-ed injects the idea that the arts have a central role to play in transforming the city’s reputation and reality around race. And that in order to effectively fulfill that role, the arts community has work to do to transform ourselves and our organizations. Offering this opinion felt both risky and liberating. Too often arts leaders sit on the sidelines in discussions of this nature, or avoid them completely, hoping to escape the controversies that swirl around them. But it also felt like a baby step. Without a critical mass of active arts leaders in full voice on this topic the transformative potential in the arts remains untapped at the civic level.


We didn’t want the op-ed to be the end of it for us. We wanted it to be a beginning. We have, as a result, now challenged ourselves to be the change we seek, and have set our intention to lead by example.  We’ll use our blog to dig openly into our own work in this arena. Not because we’ve succeeded, or because we’ve solved it, but because we are trying. And we think being transparent with the attempt can serve the larger vision of a transformed city. We will discuss the efforts underway here at ArtsEmerson to advance racial equity in the city through the arts  — what we’re doing, what’s been working, what hasn’t, and most importantly what we have learned along the way.


We are but one of the mighty voices who care passionately about the work ahead. We invite comments, questions and other examples from what you are working on or experiencing as we go.  There are guidelines for commenting found right here, and all responses will be moderated.  Or feel free to write on your own channels and let us know you’ve done so. We’ll share the links in subsequent posts.

We’re excited at the possibilities for our collective experiences to unlock the power of the arts in our city’s efforts to transcend both the reputation and the reality of our struggles with race.

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5 responses to “Introducing the ArtsEmerson Race & Equity Series”

  1. Count us in at Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts.

  2. Eve Bridburg says:

    Count us in as well at GrubStreet.

  3. David Dower says:

    Thanks for raising your hands. Looking forward to following you two as well. Great to have colleagues declaring their intent at the outset.

  4. Oscar Carter says:

    I am very pleased to comment.

    I suggest the only sustained positive difference to be made in regard to “race” relations is to eliminate the word race, outside of its meaning in the term “human race” in all representations in art and conversation. I invite ALL to search “The Last Conversation” on FACEBOOK and request to join the conversation there.

  5. What a fantastic concept. Impressed by ArtsEmerson’s leadership! Thanks for creating a forum for such an important discussion

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