Diversity in the Arts

pic1Saying local arts institutions and programs need to reflect the rich diversity of Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted to look closely at ways to encourage the participation of underrepresented communities.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board directed the County’s Arts Commission to develop proposals that would lead to more diverse boards, staff, audiences, exhibits, performances and programming at arts institutions.

It also sought ideas for encouraging individuals from underrepresented communities to have a career in the arts.

“Los Angeles County  is the creative capital of the world and a melting pot of cultures,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Its arts organizations and programs should reflect this rich diversity, as it will deepen their artists’ source of inspiration, broaden their audience, and enable them to attain long-term sustainability.”

In July 2015, the Mellon Foundation released a survey of diversity in American Art Museums and found that among museum leaders, only 4 percent are African American and 3 percent are Hispanic. It also found that while individuals from underrepresented communities account for about a third of museum staffers, they are concentrated in security, facilities, and other non-leadership positions.

“As a leader in the arts and perhaps the most diverse County in the nation, Los Angeles should be at the forefront of discussions and actions taken to improve cultural equity,” Supervisor Solis said. “Greater inclusion at all levels will strengthen our cultural institutions and help ensure maximum access to the arts for all, as well as future audiences and supporters for these important institutions.”

pic3Several prominent artists and leaders of arts institutions testified in support of the motion, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, and La Bamba and NYPD Blue actor Esai Morales, who said, “Let’s enfranchise the people who make up this great city… and grow the audience for our craft.”

Also present were Music Center President and CEO Rachel Moore, IMAGEN Foundation Executive Director Helen Hernandez, Robey Theater Company Executive Director Ben Guillory, and East West Players Diversity Liaison Leslie Ishii.

According to the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, one out of every seven jobs in the County are in arts-related fields. Supervisor Solis said, “Children from every part of our community not only need access to a robust arts education, but also need a robust pipeline for entering these jobs.”

“It is not enough to mount an occasional exhibit, or produce a six-week run of a play or musical, to signal meaningful change and efforts,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “That is why a study led by the Arts Commission, with input from an advisory group comprised of arts and community leaders, should be formed to identify best practices.”

Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker said the County is “taking the lead in a significant conversation,” adding “this is a tremendous opportunity.”