"Hi, friends! My name is Randall Nielsen, and I'm really excited to be presenting on behalf of NEFA and our NEFA cohort today. Our cohort is made up of Geordia Benjamin from Maine, Andre Rochester from Connecticut, Kia Ray from Vermont, myself representing New Hampshire, Adam Truong from Rhode Island, and Lexi Lattimore representing Massachusetts. We're incredibly grateful to the Fellowship organizers for bringing together such a strong collection of fantastic leaders of color from across the country. I sincerely hope that everyone who has joined this summit today has taken or will take the time to research each of the fellows and their remarkable accomplishments because they are truly inspiring. These achievements were primarily accomplished through the dedicated efforts of these individuals and their respective communities.
This fellowship has not only provided us with the strategic thinking and leadership skills required to continue advancing BIPOC artists in our communities but has also given us a foundation for collaboration within our cohort states. It has been equally exciting to collaborate with other BIPOC leaders across the country. We are thrilled to use this opportunity as a launching point for further collaboration across the states within our region and to strengthen our relationship with the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).
As I was structuring our approach to this conversation, I wanted to understand the current relationship between each fellow and their respective organizations and how they engage with NEFA. To my surprise, I discovered that the majority of us in the New England cohort had very limited prior interaction with NEFA. Many of us were unaware of NEFA's role in our own arts communities and our state art agencies. Some of us became aware of NEFA through our work during this fellowship. Furthermore, only two of us had used a NEFA grant prior to this program, and only two of us were familiar with NEFA's CreativeGround tool, which lists and connects artists. I'm delighted to share that through this exposure, significant efforts have been made to educate our regions about these tools. I hope we can engage in further discussions to build a stronger, more diverse, and interconnected creative community here in New England.
Our team has put together some suggestions as starting points for our ongoing collaboration with NEFA. First and foremost, we want to ensure that we can construct a more comprehensive narrative of the arts in all of New England. We understand that data and narrative are crucial in making decisions about programming and grants. We would love to be part of those conversations not only regarding programs originating from NEFA but also to establish a community network that can amplify and support the programs and accomplishments of neighboring states and their communities.
To ensure the sustainability of this work, we would like to see more emphasis placed on training and developing new leaders in our region. As Margie Reese, one of the fellowship organizers, eloquently put it, 'This kind of work is not a sprint, not a marathon, but a relay race.' Therefore, it is critical that we have programs that have a foresight into the future to ensure lasting impact.
Funding is, unsurprisingly, a significant component of this collaboration. While I won't delve too deeply into this, we would greatly appreciate more focus on leadership development, as well as increased emphasis on diverse media representation in the arts. We acknowledge the existence of the New England State Touring Grant, which is fantastic, but it primarily benefits performing artists. It would be wonderful to have a grant structure that supports other types of artists as well. Additionally, concerning equity, historically, grants have been accessible primarily to organizations with sufficient funding and personnel to utilize them. We would love to discuss a way to incorporate grant counseling into NEFA's offerings to the community. I am aware that NEFA provides counseling for NEFA grants through office hours but I would also love to see some assistance with outside grants as well.
We have so many leaders and their communities that were part of this team and achieved really fantastic things. But I want everybody here to think about what all of these communities, all of these leaders, would be able to accomplish if they had the collaboration, support, and resources of the entire arts community of New England behind them. It's truly exciting to me.
So, I'm really happy to have been a part of this fellowship. Thank you."