Playgoer and Mission Paradox both have highlighted this piece by Michael Kaiser raising some interesting questions about diversity in arts orgs. I'm not part of the cult of Kaiser quite yet, I found his much-lauded piece on arts management, for example, to be a bit overrated. (I don't think the lack of good managers is the single biggest problem facing the arts, nor do I think that getting more and better managers and paying them better is necessarily the best way to take care of all the other problems facing the arts. The Roundabout and The New Group, for example, both "know how to find resources, attract audiences and other constituents and provide support to our artists" but they also do consistently awful work and surely although the main goal of any institution is to perpetuate itself and grow, doing good work has to be up there in the goal list too, right?)
My thoughts on it are going in too many different directions for me to quite cohere them yet, so I'm going to hold off for now and simply ask you, dear reader, what you think about it. Here's some sample graphs:
Having spent a great deal of my career working with arts organizations of color, I am as committed as anyone to the diversity of our arts ecology. I do not believe that we can have a truly great artistic community if all segments of our society are not represented well.
But I do not think I believe anymore in forcing Eurocentric arts organizations to do diverse works or to put one minority on a board.
When large, white organizations produce minority works they typically select the "low hanging fruit," the most popular works by diverse artists featuring the most famous minority performers and directors. This almost invariably hurts the minority arts organizations in the neighborhood, most of which are small and underfunded, and cannot afford to match the marketing clout or the casting glamor of their larger white counterparts. How else to explain the reduced strength of American black theater companies over the past twenty years?