As a passionate advocate for cultural equity and the advancement of BIPOC artists, my participation in the National Leaders of Color Fellowship has been a transformative experience. This fellowship, a collaboration between Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) and five United States Regional Arts Organizations (USRAOs), has provided me with invaluable opportunities for personal growth, strategic leadership development, and building a network of like-minded individuals committed to creating inclusive communities. In this blog, I will share my journey in the fellowship and the importance of this program in fostering a more equitable arts landscape.
The National Leaders of Color Fellowship:
The National Leaders of Color Fellowship is an intensive eight-month program designed to empower and support BIPOC leaders in the arts. Through a cohort structure, experiential learning, and community building, the fellowship equips participants with the skills and knowledge necessary to drive positive change in their communities. Led by BIPOC faculty and leaders, the program ensures a culturally-oriented and anti-racist approach to leadership development.
As a representative of New Hampshire, I joined an inspiring cohort consisting of talented leaders from Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. From the very beginning, it was evident that this fellowship was more than just a professional development opportunity. It became a transformative journey of self-discovery, collaboration, and empowerment.
The fellowship provided a platform for us to transition from traditional management skills to strategic leadership thinking. Through sharing resources, critiquing opportunities, and engaging in deep discussions, we honed our ability to think strategically and implement impactful initiatives. The emphasis on anti-racist and culturally-oriented leadership practices further broadened our perspectives and empowered us to dismantle systemic barriers within the arts sector.
The Summit Presentation:
During the fellowship's culmination, I had the honor of presenting at a summit attended by Regional Arts Organizations, including the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). In my presentation, I highlighted the collective accomplishments of my cohort and expressed gratitude for the fellowship organizers in assembling such a remarkable group of leaders.
I acknowledged the significant role NEFA plays in supporting arts in our communities but also shared that many of us had limited prior interaction with the organization. The fellowship provided us with a newfound awareness of NEFA's programs, including the NEFA Grant and the CreativeGround Tool. It sparked a desire to collaborate more closely with NEFA and leverage its resources to amplify and support the accomplishments of artists and organizations in our region.
During the presentation, I outlined suggestions for future collaboration between our cohort and NEFA. First and foremost, we advocated for building a more comprehensive narrative of the arts in New England and actively involving our cohort in conversations around programming and grants. We emphasized the need for training and establishing new leaders to ensure the longevity and impact of our work. Additionally, we proposed greater emphasis on leadership development, diverse media representation, and equity in grant-making, including the possibility of a grant counselor within NEFA to support applicants.
The Importance of the Fellowship:
The National Leaders of Color Fellowship holds immense significance in empowering BIPOC leaders in the arts. It serves as a catalyst for personal and community growth, fostering a sense of shared vision and collaboration among leaders from diverse backgrounds. By providing strategic leadership development, fostering community networks, and amplifying the voices of underrepresented artists, the fellowship addresses the systemic barriers that have hindered the full potential of BIPOC leaders in the arts sector.
Participating in the National Leaders of Color Fellowship has been a life-changing experience. It has equipped me with the skills, knowledge, and networks necessary to advance cultural equity in the arts. Through my presentation at the summit, I highlighted the value of collaboration, the need for a comprehensive narrative of the arts in New England, and the importance of training and supporting new leaders in our region. The fellowship has not only expanded our understanding of the role of organizations like NEFA but also sparked a commitment to ongoing collaboration and resource-sharing within our cohort and beyond.
As I reflect on my journey, I am filled with hope and excitement for the future of the arts in our communities. The National Leaders of Color Fellowship has provided a platform for BIPOC leaders to amplify our voices, challenge systemic barriers, and drive positive change. By investing in diverse arts leadership and cultivating inclusive environments, we can create a more vibrant, equitable, and interconnected creative community. I am immensely grateful for the fellowship organizers, my cohort members, and the opportunity to be part of this transformative program. Together, we can continue to shape a future where every artist and community thrives, regardless of their background or identity.