ASC Apologizes For Past Inequities In Funding Arts Groups And Artists
Charlotte's Arts & Science Council is apologizing for past policies that it says have excluded people and communities of color from mainstream arts and cultural funding. In its first Cultural Equity Report, the organization details those inequities and outlines changes it has made in an effort to shift from what has been "culture for some" to its goal of "Culture for All."
The ASC grew out of the Charlotte Arts Fund, which was founded in 1958 to fund eight organizations, including the symphony, the Mint Museum, what's now Discovery Place Nature, and other music and theater groups. The ASC took its current form in 1975. At one time, the ASC's board members were mostly white and lived in just two ZIP codes, according to the report out Tuesday.
For decades, most funding went to what the report calls "white Eurocentric organizations." Since 1991, only 3.4% of ASC operating grants went to organizations by or for people of color — just $8 million out of a total $235 million. The Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is the only group to consistently receive annual operating grants.
“It is important to apologize, acknowledge and accept accountability for the role ASC has played in creating and perpetuating systems and structures that have exacerbated inequities in our cultural community and beyond and publicly assess the steps we have taken to dismantle inequitable systems and policies within ASC,” the organization's acting president, Krista Terrell, said in a statement. “Our intent is that the report honestly reflects the steps — and missteps — we have taken on our path to becoming an organization where our commitment to equity is reflected in everything we do, from our investments in the community to the makeup of our staff and board.”
In 2019, leaders adopted a "cultural diversity statement" and vowed to correct past inequities, beginning with a review of how previous practices contributed.
Working for a more equitable cultural community is not only the right thing to do- it is critical to ensuring that Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a place where creative individuals and cultural organizations can continue to thrive.— ASC Charlotte (@ASCCharlotte) February 23, 2021
The report begins with an apology and this statement: "ASC has been complicit in upholding funding practices that elevate certain cultures, creative traditions, identities and art forms above others."
But the document also outlines how the organization has changed in recent years, from hiring more people of color on its staff to improving diversity on its board and advisory boards to more inclusive grantmaking.
And it concludes with another pledge: to report annually on its progress in meeting its goal.