What are Arts Colleges Doing About Racism?

George Mason University, College of Visual and Performing Arts

  • A existing (fairly new) cross-disciplinary seminar series called Kritikos (under our Arts in Context banner) has been repurposed and dedicated to the exploration of anti-racist artmaking, pedagogy, institutional policy, and personal actions. It meets every Friday for 90 minutes. View

  • Academic units in CVPA have held or are planning to hold student/faculty listening sessions focusing on the experiences of our students of color.  The School of Music and School of Dance have already engaged in this process, and other programs are preparing to do so as the semester approaches. Facilitated faculty and staff conversations are occurring around anti-racism themes. A representative of Mason's Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education serves as facilitator. Next up is the professional staff of the Center for the Arts and the Hylton Performing Arts Center, so that our most public-facing operations can better meet the moment.

    Our academic units and professional venues are reviewing curricula and production/exhibition/presentation schedules to reflect BIPOC work and artists and concerns, in both immediate and long-range terms.

    Various units have posted resources to foster a deeper engagement with the issues that Black Lives Matter. View

  • A wonderful School of Theater student, Jordyn Campbell, organized a BLM rally in downtown Fairfax, which was peaceful and well-attended. View

  • Dean's statement from June 2, which appeared on all of our principal websites and on social media channels. View

  • A cross-campus program to place the legacy -- and statue -- of our namesake, George Mason, in historical context has led to what we think will be a transformative piece of public engagement around the theme of The Enslaved People of George Mason, creating a visual conversation between two of the people Mason owned as slaves and Mason himself.  The impetus for this large-scale project came about from an undergraduate research project led by Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott, and the design and execution has been a multi-disciplinary endeavor.  The project began about 3 years ago and will be finished next year when Roger Wilkins Plaza reopens. View

Contact: Rick Davis
Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts
Executive Director, Hylton Performing Arts Center
George Mason University
(703) 993-8878 | Email

Louisiana State University, College of Music and Dramatic Arts

We are forming the CMDA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to ensure that we are being thoughtful, deliberate, and intentional in our actions as we pursue our mission.  The CMDA DEI Committee will have three main objectives:

  1. Faculty Hiring – Members of the CMDA DEI Committee will serve as ambassadors for faculty hiring committees in the college.   A member of the committee will serve on each hiring committee within the college.  The committee will also explore best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse faculty members.

  2. Student Experience – The committee will work with the CMDA Office of Student Success to ensure we are following best practices for recruiting and retaining diverse students and will help to ensure that the student experience while at LSU is welcoming, inclusive, and equitable. The DEI Committee may also choose to have a student committee as part of this particular initiative.

  3. Curriculum, Programming, and Representation – The committee will help to ensure that our curriculum contains a diversity of styles, cultures, and artistic works that expand beyond the traditional canon.  Likewise, the committee will advise on programming that is representative of diverse cultures and genres outside the traditional canon.  Finally, the committee will advise on hiring equal representation of guest artists, designers, directors, conductors, and composers.

    Contact: Todd Queen
    Dean, College of Music and Dramatic Arts
    Louisiana State University
    (225) 578-9959 | Email

Northern Illinois UNIVERSITY

Penn State University

  • Penn State Centre Stage Virtual Presents "20/20 Vision": Penn State Centre Stage Virtual is proud to announce it's co-production with People's Light of a new play by Steve H. Broadnax lll, "20/20 Vision." The new work is commissioned by People's Light and stars M.F.A Acting alumnus Eric B. Robinson Jr. View the online performance. This play contains mature and potentially disturbing themes, and is not suitable for children. It contains strong language, and a handgun briefly appears. 

    Note from the Dean: Racism, Social Media, and Actionable Items for the College of Arts & Architecture

    Contact: B. Stephen Carpenter, II, Dean
    College of Arts & Architecture
    Penn State University
    (814) 865-9523 | Email

Southern Oregon University

  • Our Theatre Program here at Southern Oregon University just received a letter from a number of our students and alums demanding changes to the program that better embraces the tenets of equity as being advanced by the BIPOC Project. The BIPOC Project aims to build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantle white supremacy and advance racial justice. https://www.thebipocproject.org/ Coming out of this project is a coalition of theater artists, known by the title of its first statement, “We See You, White American Theater,” https://www.weseeyouwat.com which has posted online a 29-page set of demands that, if adopted, would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the theater ecosystem in America. We have crafted a swift response from our theatre faculty to acknowledge the issues raised in the letter and that the Theatre Program embraces the desire to change and to develop a more equitable program reflected in the curriculum, play selections for production, casting, and study of more BIPOC artists and their works.

Contact: David Humphrey

Director of the Oregon Center for the Arts
Southern Oregon University
Email

UNIVERSITY of colorado denver, college of arts & media

  • “At CAM, there is a need to find the resources for turning words into action—for greater mutual understanding. Here we support research, creative work, teaching, learning, and service that will address the steep social challenges and cultural barriers that continue to challenge us as a nation." – Dean Laurence Kaptain / Read Dean Kaptain’s full June 1, 2020  message to CAM students, faculty, and staff.

  •  CAM Appoints Activist-in-Residence, Katie Leonard. CAM has engaged Activist-in-Residence and Special Advisor to the Dean, Katie Leonard––a Denver native and lead organizer for Anti-Racist Club Colorado. Learn More About Her Role 


  • The EDI Task Force will elevate CAM to provide vital first-stage support to foster individual creative self-awareness, expression, and personal growth–– and also to motivate students to reach out and explore the potential of emerging areas of public consciousness. This will be driven by measures to support diversifying faculty and staff, tackling social justice issues in the campus community, listening to leading authorities, and expanding inclusive pedagogy and curriculum. 

  • Faculty and students address social issues through art and scholarship. Please visit the CAM webpage dedicated to how students and faculty use art as a catalyst for activism, including motion graphic students creating PSAs addressing white fragility and systemic racism, and bronze cast sculpture symbolizing racial disparity. 

    Contact:  Larry Kaptain, Dean
    College of Arts & Media
    University of Colorado Denver
    Email

    UNIVERSITY of houston, mcgovern college of the arts

      • appointed a Task Force on Antiracism, chaired by Prof. Michael Ray Charles and charged with developing a 5-year strategic plan (one that addresses College policy on hiring, curriculum, and student support) to diversity the College and with structuring a standing committee on antiracism to appear in College bylaws
      • held facilitated student listening circles for students to engage with the local and national dialogue and to make their voices heard on issues such as college policy; facilitated by the Center for Art and Social Engagement
      • held a summer read program, reading Ibram Kendi’s How To Be an Antiracist, facilitated by Performing Arts Librarian Madelyn Washington
      • planned to host, on September 11, an Inclusive Teaching Workshop with Prof. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University, aimed at building capacity among the faculty for engaging in constructive and progressive classroom discussions on race, power, and privilege
      • created an internal competitive grant program, making available research funding to faculty, for developing courses that diversify and address the structural racism and other related inequities in the existing arts curricula across the College's units
      • launched a course, “Art and Social Justice,” planned for spring 2021, taught
        by Prof. Fleurette Fernando 

      Communications on these and related items may be found online, as follows:

      Note from the Dean: Racism, Social Media, and Actionable Items for the College of Arts & Architecture

      Contact: Andrew Davis, Dean
      McGovern College of the Arts
      University of Houston
      713-743-3294 | email

      UNIVERSITY OF illinois, urbana-champaign, college of fine and applied arts

        • Two years ago we made our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force a
          bylaw-constituted standing committee. This year we also added an Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to the college leadership team, staffed through an internal search.
        • Drawing from professional expertise and practice in anti-racism, Associate Dean Rochelle Sennet will work with our faculty, staff, and students to develop transformation plans for eliminating white supremacy’s grip on our modes of teaching, scholarship and engagement. Each unit in the college will work over fall 2020 to do some stock-taking and reflection using this instrument and process.
        • This summer we also launched our Black Arts Research initiative with the We Got Next summer salon series, led by Dean’s Fellow Endalyn Taylor. Five nights of “prime time” live programming brought profiles and conversations with Black faculty, alumni, and community partners, and how their work prepared them to process the new uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
        • The larger goals of the Black Arts Research Initiative include both identifying and removing the barriers to thriving that our Black faculty face, and strategizing ways of facilitating and funding a long-term interdisciplinary and community-partnered locus for their work. A Research Professor will support this initiative through critical documentation of our work, reflecting on its relationship to historical precedents in higher education, and sharing what we learn with others in multiple scholarly and creative forms.
        • We are developing a college-wide online course in Black Arts that draws from all of our academic disciplines and centers on the role of the arts in Black-led social movements. This will fulfill a basic curricular requirement for all majors.
        • We will revise our promotion and tenure criteria by the end of AY20-21 to better center our mission on the excellence that emerges uniquely in community-partnered research and pedagogy.
        • A new Arts Impact Assessment initiative is moving to add assessment to our community-partnered efforts in a way that ensures longevity and success on our partners’ terms.
        • Our seven academic units and three public engagement units have their own important discipline-specific initiatives, and we’d be happy to share those on request.

          Contact: Kevin Hamilton, Dean
          College of Fine and Applied Arts
          University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
          email

       

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA – LINCOLN

  • Nebraska repertory theater in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts
    has chosen to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement and engage in the current

    national conversation about systemic racism.  We have been horrified and outraged
    by the events unfolding in our country. The senseless murders of George Floyd, 
    Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, James Scurlock, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others;
    the attacks on protestors; and the criminal, systemic disregard of black Americans by
    our government, our police departments and our communities is a call to action for
    our theatre community.  Nebraska Repertory Theatre is committed to advancing this important conversation. Now, more than ever, we need to be collaborating across the campus and with community support groups and other local and national arts organizations to seek ways to help each other in these efforts.  We are actively seeking these collaborative partnerships. We have chosen to postpone our three productions planned for this fall and focus instead on devoting the Rep’s resources and time to an intensive exploration of how we approach race in our theatres and in the higher education setting.  This fall we will convene a diverse group of artists, writers, collaborators, and civil rights leaders in a series of virtual events (workshops, panels, listening circles, performances, etc.) to explore the best path forward for The Rep, for the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, and for the larger theatre community.  We recognize, however, that workshops and panels alone will not combat deeply seated patterns of systemic racism.  We intend to use these venues to understand the systems that contribute to racism and work to reform those systems.  We are convening a task force that includes students, faculty, staff, alumni and outside consultants with expertise in anti-racism to develop short and long-term goals for this racial justice initiative and to solicit the programming for it.  We have sought guidance and assistance from the leadership in the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  As well, we are working closely with the Johnny Carson School Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a Recognized Student Organization formed in the spring of 2020.

  • The School of Art, Art History & Design in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts has a long history in addressing the relationship between art and social change.  In the past it has lead campus discussion through exhibitions spotlighting design work that promotes civil and human rights, the preservation of the environment, and advocacy of equal opportunity. This year, the School is organizing its guest lecture series around a cluster theme, “(Re-)Public,” which will explore diverse understandings of public space. The series asks: How might we re-imagine public space in the wake of a global pandemic and mass social demonstrations? What is a public exactly, and who is included and excluded as a valuable member of public life? Speakers and programs in the 2020-2021 lineup will illuminate ways in which art, design and visual culture can build emerging and speculative publics, and complicate existing histories. As part of the series, the School is organizing a public Zoom panel this fall, “Serious Play: Transgressive Publications and their Histories,” in which designers and art historians will discuss print publications and the roles they play in igniting activist movements. Several art and design faculty are a part of the new Environmental Futures research cluster at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and will offer new courses in the 2020-2021 academic year that center on race, identity, and the environment. Their courses, “Visualizing Crisis: Food, Water, and Biopolitics” and “Design Laboratory with the Drought Mitigation Center” model forms of artistic expression that educate, engage and inspire new realities.”

  • Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts: Ethics is embedded into the entire Emerging Media Arts curriculum, which includes an investigation of the racism embedded in emerging media technologies. Resources on this topic include books such as Ruhu Benjamin’s “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code,” as part of this curriculum.