Arts Connect International
Arts Connect International
by Tim Delong
>>> Arts Connect International (ACI) addresses systemic inequity in the arts. ACI’s mission is to partner with emerging artist leaders of color to build equity in and through the arts.
Featured ACI Artist Leaders
When ACI was first founded in 2014, its mission focused almost exclusively on individual leadership development. ACI was committed to cultivating and connecting leaders in the art field who were committed to social equity. The original programing, ACI Founder Marian Taylor Brown said, was focused on individual artists and leaders. ACI’s leadership development network was, “almost like a mini-MBA” for artists who used their work to address justice issues.
But as ACI grew, Marian and others became convinced that they needed to focus on more than just the individual. To address the systemic nature of white supremacy in the arts, Marian said, ACI needed to pay attention to the institutions that hold power within those systems. About a year ago, ACI did just that – the leadership team started a consulting program that works with non-profit and for-profit arts organizations to address the cultural equity gap in the arts. Marian hopes that ACI’s new holistic approach will help them better respond to systemic injustice in the arts.
Now, by partnering with emerging artist leaders of color and arts influencers who hold institutional power in the contemporary art world, ACI helps collectively build equity, access, and inclusion through transformational leadership development.
Recognizing the necessity to present these systemic inequalities in a concise, data-driven manner, ACI started a research wing to help crunch the numbers. The data ACI gathers might lead to advocate for even larger systemic changes by showing the interconnectedness between capitalism and white supremacy. This, Marian contends, will lead to new questions: “We have to ask: do we develop new rules to the game, or do we develop a new game altogether?”
As for the future, Marian isn’t sure what direction the conversation is heading, but she knows ACI will be there. “We will go where there’s heat in the room,” she said, “we’ll go towards those difficult questions.” But even with the inevitable changes, Marian hopes that ACI will always maintain its community grounded mentality and continue to be a space for artists to create, “I will always think of ACI as an incubator space for equity. I hope that ten years from now we’re community led on and for the quest towards equity.” §
Tim Delong (Associate Editor) is a master’s candidate at Harvard Divinity School and a field placement intern at Still Harbor. At HDS, Tim focuses on religion in the Americas with special attention to the intersection of religion and science. Before moving to Boston, Tim worked as a community organizer in Detroit, a housing counselor in Northern Illinois, and a financial counselor in Chicago.