The National Leaders of Color Fellowship is an eight-month fellowship that will be held virtually from October, 2022 until May, 2023. Designed as a robust strategic leadership development program for leaders of color who have promise and have demonstrated performance aligned with equity, the program uses a cohort structure and emphasizes experiential learning, community building, and service to the field. Since its inception, the program has been intentionally led by BIPOC faculty and leaders, and has not been institutionally driven — a facet that is precious and will remain intact as the program expands nationally.
“At the start of this work with WESTAF a decade ago, I had no idea that this expansion and growth would be possible,” said Margie Reese, principal consultant, MJR Partners – Arts Management Services, faculty member and mentor for the program. “Every cohort confirms the need for allyship and knowledge sharing among peers. It’s been a powerful way for me to invest in the future of the field of arts administration.”
“WESTAF’s Leaders of Color program has proven its effectiveness by tapping into the wealth of talent and resourcefulness that exists among leaders of color,” said Salvador Acevedo, managing partner at Scansion Inc., curriculum consultant and long time faculty of the program. “With the program’s expansion, we’ll increase our impact by focusing on the regional implications of nationwide issues and creating a shared vision of an equitable and inclusive arts field.”
Started in 2010, and in partnership with South Arts since 2020, WESTAF’s ELC program has promoted diverse, representative leadership and equity in the arts field by supporting the leadership of more than 100 arts leaders of color since its inception. A direct result of recommendations and referrals made to the WESTAF program from its network of arts and culture leaders and advocates from across the western region, the community gathers and the work evolves on an ongoing basis through the Leaders of Color (LC) Network.
“We recognize that institutions have not adequately supported people of color in our sector,” said Todd Stein, CEO of the Mid-America Arts Alliance and co-chair of the USRAO collective. “We also recognize that most applicants to this program, while highly qualified to pursue leadership careers in the arts, have historically been denied access to the resources, the positional contacts and the networks — rather than the specific skills — to lead. The USRAOs acknowledge that for decades we have been a part of the inequitable structures that have contributed to this dynamic. In fact, it’s only relatively recently that people of color have joined the USRAOs in positions of leadership.”
Added WESTAF Executive Director Christian Gaines: “The National Leaders of Color Fellowship builds on the work of the ELC program, which has been thriving in the western region for over a decade. This national expansion marks the beginning of an important new chapter. There is so much more listening and learning to be done on the part of institutions like ours, and which must be followed with actions that directly benefit leaders of color in the sector.”
WESTAF is a regional nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to strengthening the financial, organizational, and policy infrastructure of the arts in the West. WESTAF assists state arts agencies, arts organizations, and artists in their quest to serve diverse audiences, enrich the lives of local communities, and provide access to the arts and arts education for all. Through innovative programming, advocacy, research, technology, and grantmaking, WESTAF encourages the creative advancement and preservation of the arts regionally and through a national network of customers and alliances. Founded in 1974, WESTAF is governed by a 22-member board of trustees and serves the largest constituent territory of the six U.S. regional arts organizations and includes Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Learn more at www.westaf.org.
About the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations
The United States Regional Arts Organizations (USRAOs) strengthen and support arts, culture, and creativity in their individual regions as well as across the nation. They serve the nation’s artists, arts and culture organizations, and creative communities with programs that reflect and celebrate the diversity of the field in which they work. They partner with the National Endowment for the Arts, state arts agencies, individuals, and other public and private funders to develop and deliver programs, services, and products that advance arts and creativity. Learn more at www.usregionalarts.org.