The following video message was presented by President and CEO Dayna Del Val during The State of the Arts 2020 broadcasted live on June 30. Continue reading for a full script of her talk.
Hello and thank you for being at The State of the Arts. I want to thank all of the arts organizations, artists and arts-related businesses in the Partnership for being the reason that my team and I get up and go to work every day. Thank you to our funders, both the businesses and the individuals who continue to support our work, even during Covid-19. Thank you to our excellent Board of Directors and to my incredible staff who have not only stayed dedicated and creative during the time of Covid but who have helped push The Arts Partnership to whole new levels of excellence in every area of our work.
Normally, one of the big elements to The State of the Arts is handing out the City Arts Partnership grants. Thanks to the bold action of our Board of Directors, who unanimously and enthusiastically agreed to this, those grants were awarded in early May and without the formal application process that has become such a hallmark of how we manage the grant program. This year, in this time of incredible uncertainty, it just made sense to recognize the stress our past grant recipients were under and work to alleviate some of that by awarding all of last year’s grantees an average of their grant dollars from the last four years. Ethan is doing a Forum article about them later this summer, so be on the lookout for that to learn more.
Ten years ago this month, I attended my first annual meeting of The Arts Partnership, which was a celebration of the organization’s 40th anniversary and a sendoff to Martha Keeler-Olsen, at that time, the longest serving ED in TAP’s history. I had recently been announced as the new executive director, and I was thrilled at the prospect of this work. I was so inexperienced when I started that I didn’t have the good sense to understand just exactly how immense this work was going to be, and that’s ok, because who would take on nonprofit work if they really understood how high the stakes are, how tenuous the success can be and how vitally important the work of living our mission really is?
So flash forward to now: this year, The Arts Partnership is 50 years old, and I am about to embark on my 10th year leading the charge for the arts in the Metro. None of us could have anticipated that 2020 would start the way that it has, and unfortunately, we will likely all be feeling the effects of Covid-19 long after either the virus recedes or we have a vaccine to counter it. We have been extremely grateful for the relative health of the Metro and for the support that has shown up in ways large and small from the community for the arts sector. And we marveled at how creative the sector got at providing performances, gallery exhibitions, art in the public realm, classes and more during the long months of social isolation. It should have been no surprise that the arts found new ways to provide joy, a sense of calm and beauty, but it was a wonderful thing to watch unfold on my computer screen, and I know I’m not alone in having participated in and appreciated all the creative ways the arts showed up for us all.
I could spend time celebrating the ways that The Arts Partnership pivoted during the first half of 2020, but I am far less interested in looking back, whether that’s to last month or the last decade and beyond, than I am in looking forward. There’s something about the significance of turning 50 that has me wondering what The Arts Partnership will look like at 75 or 100, or actually, what it will look like at 51? How will we re-position this organization so that this time next year, we are living our mission to its fullest and leading the charge for important systemic changes that have come to light in new and powerful ways in this epic time of uncertainty?
For years, we have talked about being more diverse in our Board appointments and in our programming, but the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month has been the tragic impetus to move us from talking to doing.
I am thrilled to welcoming Shelly Aasen Carlson, Smita Garg, Earnest Lamb and Dan Leeaphon to our Board of Directors. We know that without diverse voices and perspectives at the table, the questions and answers are likely to be more of the same. Each of these individuals brings diversity of experience, thought, passion and vision to our already impressive Board of Directors. It’s time for The Arts Partnership to better look like and represent the growing diversity of our community, and this is just the start of that work.
Please join me in taking a moment to thank our outgoing Board members, Matt Brunsvold, Nikki Ness Berglund, Lana Suomala and Karin Rudd for their service on the Board and in support of our mission. Special thanks to Karin, who served as Board Chair three of the six years of her board service.
In 2019 as you saw in the video, The Arts Partnership changed its mission from “Cultivating the Arts in the Community” to “Cultivating the Community Through the Arts.” This subtle yet significant shift charges us to ensure that the arts sector, starting with our own organization, better represents and engages with the larger community we are trying to cultivate through our work.
This year, The Arts Partnership is committed to critically assessing everything from our core values and vision statement to each of our programs to the communications content we produce to ensure that there is better representation of the depth and breadth of the diverse community of artists and citizens who are living and working in the Metro. We know this is not “one and done” kind of work but rather a new, ongoing lens from which we must and will continuously evaluate our work. We also know that the great majority of us are coming from places of extreme privilege and unconscious bias, and we will work diligently to monitor that in ourselves and in our work as well.
We will spend the year discussing and creating a Statement on Cultural Equity that will become a pillar to our organization as well as working to develop and embed stated inclusive practices into our core work.
And as we are working through these processes and connecting with other organizations that are on this journey, too, we will be transparent and share what we are learning with the arts sector and beyond because we know this type of intentional work must ultimately spread across and be adopted by the entire community for it to have lasting and meaningful change for everyone who lives, works and plays in the Metro.
And as I said in a recent video, I’m asking for grace as we move into this work. My hope is not to be one of the well-intentioned white people who ends up doing more harm than good, but I know that I am likely to say or do things that reveal my privilege or display my personal unconscious bias. My promise is to listen and learn more and talk less and to humbly go back to square one as often as I need to in an effort to create real systemic change in myself, in our organization and across our sector.
In addition to that, we are also going to be diligent in creating policies and practices that ensure our programs and locations are safe places for all people to gather, create and enjoy. We will create a series of values that we not only will uphold ourselves but that we will expect our Partners to uphold as well.
For too long, our organization has worked on the unconscious assumption that people can find themselves in the white spaces of our website and communication and in the open doors of our programs. That it’s implied and understood that all people are welcome, that all voices are valued and that all lives matter. Our commitment this year is to not only be inclusive but to be transparent and pointed in our language and our actions about who and what we value.
There’s no way of knowing what the second half of 2020 is going to look like. All we can do is take it one day, one step at a time, washing our hands, wearing our masks, keeping our distance as intentionally as we can. And while we’re doing that, we will continue with the vital work of Supporting Local Art for the enjoyment, benefit and strengthening of the entire Metro.
2020 might not have turned out the way we expected it to, but if we band together, if we remember how vital the arts sector is to the health and well-being of the Metro and if we make real efforts to better recognize, represent and include those who call this place home, we will ultimately survive the uncertainty and the stress.
I, for one, am looking excitedly ahead to 51 and beyond. The Arts Partnership has never been more necessary, and I believe we have never been more ready, to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Thank you for joining us on this journey and for being part of all that is yet to come.
Watch our video recap created by Erin Lemair with music composed by Quinn Del Val.