ArtWorks News

Building a Safe and Equitable Community: Our Commitment to Anti-Racism

Dear Friends,

At ArtWorks we are deeply saddened and disturbed by the racial violence we have seen this year. The recent tragic and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have broken our hearts but more importantly shaken us. We make that statement while also understanding that systemic racism has plagued our nation for centuries.

It’s a pandemic we haven’t yet cured.

We love our city and our country to the core, and we want it to be equitable and safe for all people. Racism doesn’t allow for equity or safety in any community including ours and ArtWorks is committed to fighting for the end of it. Many of the young artists we work with have continuously been pushed to the margins of their own communities. They have been subject to this racism and oppression their entire lives. We can’t end it overnight but would like to publicly vow to actively work against racism—not only when the death of a person of color goes viral but every day of our existence. We understand it’s simply not enough for us to denounce injustice once in a while. We have to continue working in an anti-racist fashion in every aspect of our lives. We stand in solidarity with our community to work for change.

We’re not perfect, and we have a lot to learn. True allyship takes consistent lifelong learning and activism. We know that we have to work from the inside out.

Our promise:

  • We will invest the time in attending the Racial Equity Matters Groundwater training hosted by Greater Cincinnati Foundation, as well as other training opportunities. We acknowledge attending isn’t enough but active participation, active listening and openness to change is how we plan to learn from this training.
  • We will continue our commitment to create jobs and pay a living wage to youth and artists that reflect the makeup of our city. We have always valued employing diverse youth and 50% non-white youth apprentices year over year. Yet we also recognize the flaw in having a majority-white led organization. We’re not proud of this lack of diversity, and we need to recruit staff and board that reflects the diversity of our city. We will work towards recruiting a diverse staff and board—not just to hit a quota or to appear progressive—but because we value representation and the contributions of every voice; not just white ones. Everyone deserves a seat at the table, including when it comes to our mission.
  • We will choose to uplift people of color with opportunities to design and lead art projects that transform our community. Last summer, our Cincinnati Artist Report (CAR) surveyed participants only consisted of 7% Black and 5 % other people of color. We’re not satisfied with that, as this doesn’t reflect or accurately represent all artists of our city. To better listen to artists’ needs, we are releasing a second survey and will be holding two Conversations with Artists on June 9 and June 11. Our goal with this work is to listen and to support the needs of our artist community, and we need to be inclusive to be effective. If you are an artist of color please amplify your voice here.

Black lives matter. We stand with you. We have a responsibility to continue to have dialogue and support our collective education and demonstrate our values through our actions. If you have recommendations, resources or references to share to support this work ahead, please reach out to us. I speak for ArtWorks and we commit to supporting our community, as it works to create a world free from racism and injustice.

In Solidarity,

Colleen Houston, CEO & Artistic Director

Image by Kevin J. Watkins.