DEAI 2022

Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion: 2022 in review

Author: Tamara Holmes Brothers, Ph.D.

Greetings to the North Carolina arts community.

Since my appointment as the Arts Council’s deputy director, I have been charged with designing, developing, and implementing agency programs; recommending policies that realize the agency's mission of "arts for all people"; and working with our staff and board to create and implement strategic plans.

Centering institutional equity, diversity goals, and outreach is integral to this work. Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) have been and continue to be more than progressive ideas. They have become essential for organizations globally, including the Arts Council. True systemic change comes about only when it is a way of life, not a trend.

In 2022, the Arts Council staff worked to foster a culture of creativity, intentional perspectives, and understanding by acknowledging the need for our own adjustments. The adoption of a new strategic plan provided an opportunity to reconcile our mission and organizational practices with DEAI goals. We did this in three distinct areas:

Organizational hiring and training practices

  • Ongoing all-staff DEAI meetings to discuss and learn how DEAI intersects with the arts—externally with our constituents and internally with our staff.
  • Continued hiring of staff who are people of color.
  • DEAI-focused professional development opportunities that included the Lenoir-Rhyne Equity and Diversity Institute (LREDI) course program. The institute supports, inspires, and equips executives, nonprofit leaders, educators, students, social activists, and others who intend to spark change and cultivate better communities through their professional careers.
  • Continued Arts Council board-member diversity appointments, which have increased by 150 percent in the past five years.

Grantmaking criteria

  • Ongoing analysis and adjustment of Arts Council funding criteria to ensure balanced grantmaking practices and to define ways to implement equitable methods.
  • Creation of the Spark the Arts grant category to support arts providers as the arts community reopened during the pandemic, through a combination of programming, marketing, rebuilding staff capacity, and facilitating safety protocols. Applications in this category track audience re-engagement and audience inclusion.

Community education and outreach

Reconfiguring priorities and establishing ongoing programs that center DEAI in our workplace and in constituent work constitute the first step. But awareness is not enough: DEAI must be in our DNA. Transforming the mindset AND behaviors of our organizational infrastructure with all people in mind lets us build and move forward together.

We know infrastructural changes don’t happen overnight. Our work is ongoing. Thank you for your patience as we continue with this important work.

Sincerely,

Tamara Holmes Brothers signature

Tamara Holmes Brothers, Ph.D.