As the year is quickly drawing to a close, it is only right to reflect on it. It goes without saying that 2020 has been one to remember for a lot of reasons (particularly an eleven-letter word on everyone’s mind that starts with a C and ends with an S). And it would be very easy to allow the challenging and difficult times to overshadow a number of positive things that have happened this year. But one evident positive outcome of 2020 was the fact that black lives matter was brought back to the forefront of many minds. The BLM protests central message of racial equality made waves throughout several arts institutions, who became conscious of – or were forced to confront – their lack of diversity.
Over the past months, as part of its Community Foundation NI New Needs project, the Golden Thread Gallery has hosted three sessions to discuss how we as arts organisations can all endeavour to put diversity and equality at the forefront.
In the second session, our guest speaker Seema Manchanda, Managing Director of The Showroom, accurately pointed out that when it comes to making progress on the matter, as long as an organisation is consciously attempting to improve diversity, even small actions count to begin with. A similar sentiment was expressed in our third session by our two speakers Jade Foster and Pier Vegner Tosta: namely that improving diversity is not something that can be solved in a couple of weeks. It’s more along the lines of a marathon. Policies around diversity and inclusion should be viewed as a long-term strategy.
Two particularly useful pieces of advice that I took from the sessions were:
- Reach out to diverse communities and cater to their needs
This can range from allowing your space just to be a community shared space that can be used in alternative ways. By removing the pressure of getting the community to come to your venue and participate in what you have to offer, a suggestion was to allow your space to be used by them in other ways that they actually need more. This could be a meeting point, learning space or simply a place with no pressure to buy something, offering free tea and coffee; the aim is to make your space useful for the community.
- Create an allyship with other organisations
As mentioned above, striving for more diversity is not an easy and quick job. In areas like Belfast, with a smaller diverse population, having an alliance allows for strength in numbers and sharing knowledge.
I hope you have a lovely holiday period and stay safe. See you all in 2021, where the Golden Thread Gallery and I have planned more sessions and activities in the New Needs project, including a host of amazing speakers to hear from and with whom we can discuss making our organisations more inclusive.
Finally, we wanted to share the wonderful presentation that Pier collated for Session Three, featuring artworks and artists that have inspired and informed his own personal and curatorial journey exploring identity, ethnicity, history and memory, and how these can often be blurred into one.
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