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Equity within the Arts Ecology: Traditions and Trends

Prepared by the Centre for Innovation in Culture and Arts in Canada (CICAC)

August 18, 201218 August 2012

Aboriginal arts / Cultural diversity

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Based on a literature review and environmental scan, this brief synthesis examines “how equity is defined, understood, implemented and measured within the Canadian arts ecology, as well as within a broader international arts context”. The study also attempts to identify sustainable practices as well as important questions for future research.

The report indicates that equity and diversity issues can be challenging “to understand without a sense of the political and cultural climate”. This includes an historical shift “of focus from 1980s on race/ethnicity to specific addresses of Aboriginal involvement in the 1990s as well as sexual identity and, more recently, disability”. Internationally, there has been a renewed “commitment to equity based on certain notions of disenfranchisement”, which may have different meanings across regions and disciplines.

Overall, while cultural diversity is “very much at the forefront of institutional, artistic and cultural agendas in Canada, …there remains in certain areas some lag behind international understandings and articulations of sustainable diversity initiatives.” Specific gaps identified in the report relate to addressing concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered artists as well as ageism.

Sustainable practices include federal frameworks that provide “strong templates for capacity-building in many areas”, collaboration with other organizations, attention to regional specificities, and a recognition of “the centrality of technology in creating a shared environment for knowledge and action”.

Some potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to equity in the arts are highlighted in a table in the report:

  • Potential strengths could include: “a uniform understanding of the need and scope of equity action within your organization”; the ability to avoid “cookie-cutter” models and to create an organization-specific action plan; and careful attention to the allocation of resources, including but not limited to financial resources.
  • Potential weaknesses could include: non-responsive, “top-down bureaucratic processes”; temporary or limited consultation processes and lines of communication; and different levels of attention to (and access for) different disadvantaged groups.
  • Potential opportunities include: “the grand potential of inclusivity for all”; “new and interactive technologies that give more immediate access and stronger possibility for outreach, transparency and responsiveness”; and the development of specific outreach practices for diverse audiences.
  • Potential threats include: “a fear of change”; forces that encourage the status quo; and “the risk of duplication of work and widening of gaps in knowledge”.

One conclusion of the study is that, “for CPAF to maintain both rigorous attention to consistent equity action and an understanding of regional/provincial/territorial needs and differences, there needs to be consistency in knowledgeable monitoring of and research into national and international trends”.

An extensive multi-part resource list, including an extended bibliography and links, also forms part of the report.

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