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DIAL-ed IN: Our Diversity in Arts Leadership Fellows' Inspiring Projects

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Metro Arts was honored that Nashville was chosen as a 2020 host city for Americans for the Arts' 25-year-old Diversity in Arts Leadership (DIAL) program. Nashville was only the fourth U.S. city to host the fellowship, which started in New York City and later expanded to New Jersey and to Des Moines, Iowa.

At Metro Arts, we were excited for the opportunity to match undergraduate students from backgrounds traditionally untapped in arts leadership with placements in our city's dynamic arts organizations. However, because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the program shifted from in-person placements at local cultural institutions to an in-depth, online curriculum, adapted from our Racial Equity in Arts Leadership program with Vanderbilt University's Curb Center for Arts, Enterprise and Public Policy. The curriculum was designed to support the fellows as leaders in arts administration and in equity practices. Their fellowships culminated with artistic project presentations, many of which we're thrilled to share with you now.

KeShawn Mellon wrote his spoken-word poem, "When I Was 12 Years Old," over the summer of protests: "(George) Floyd’s murder often reminds me as a young, black man that there are no exceptions for people like me. That no matter how innocent, the murder of black folk is still going to happen. If George Floyd didn’t teach me that, Breonna Taylor did. The fact that her murderers are still free right now is unspeakable. She had goals. Dreams. Aspirations. She was working hard in life. She was a person, like the rest of us, asleep in her own bed. Yet, there’s been no justice. Make it make sense. The amount of murdered black people that can appear on a list is breathtaking. It’s painful knowing that even if I did innocent, my murderers still have the ability to walk freely. Elijah McClain taught me that. The protest that have been happening are needed. They are essential. If they don’t fight, who will?"

The mission of fellow Ashley Betances AristaX website is to teach and introduce fellow artists and the general population to Latinx art and culture.

Ashley is also the cofounder of Aria Entertainment, a company made by artists, for artists, to promote, fund, and create for underprivileged artists and communities, such as those who are minorities, those who are disabled, those who are considered immigrants, and more.

Theresa-Xuan Bui wrote the poem, “At Ease,” which she performed and spoke about at an artist talk with the Washington Project for the Arts.

Fellow Faith Lynn Daccion created Sa Bahay: A Filipinx Talent Showcase, “created to highlight six Filipinx-Identifying artists and to garner support for the nonprofit organization EmbraceRace. All of the performers either pursue art or are art advocates and enthusiasts.”

Neaco Fox launched The Growing Art Collective online, with the mission of asking “artists and art practitioners from underrepresented communities questions and provide them a platform to tackle these issues based on their own ideas, knowledge, and lived experiences. Their response takes the form of any art form, such as dance, digital art, photography, poetry, etc. We believe that listening to diverse voices allows our audience to learn from individuals they may not have the chance to engage with on a regular basis, and, as a result, grow from these conversations. the growing art collective creates community and conversation through art.”

Akiylah Hargrove created “reFUELING" to document the stories of “young Black artists as they fuel and sustain their artistry during this historical time,” featuring artists from Atlanta; Charlotte, NC; Washington, DC; New York City; Newark, NJ; Lexington, KY; Athens, OH; and Berlin, Germany.

Cristal Seda established Arte a lo Boricua, social media accounts for the support and promotion of Puerto Rican visual artists.

Charis Shin’s short story “Limoncello” is narrated by a child who represents those “growing up today– in the midst of a global pandemic, and in a nation that has politicized just about everything over the decades. I wanted to capture that feeling of "in-betweenness,” of being simultaneously too young and old enough to understand the gravity of situations. I wanted to celebrate the childlike spirit that is too often chalked up as naivete but is more often than not simply a perspective that has yet to become jaded.”

Fellows Faith Brianna Duncombe and Elena Sanchez are using their DIAL experiences to build arts support in their local communities.

To learn more about the DIAL program, visit Americans for the Arts' site.

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