Diversity in the Arts

The DeVos Institute’s first research topic, Diversity in the Arts, investigated the challenges facing organizations of color operating in the United States today, with a specific focus on African American and Latino theater companies, dance companies, and museums.

In 2015, a large number of arts organizations of color are struggling, in some cases desperately. While many of these organizations still manage to produce important artistic and educational work, the majority are plagued by chronic financial difficulties that place severe limits on what can be produced, how much can be produced, how many artists are trained, and how many people are served. As macro trends emerge that threaten the U.S. arts sector as a whole, from cuts in government funding to the proliferation of cheap online entertainment, organizations of color are particularly vulnerable.

Download "Diversity in the Arts: The Past, Present, and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies" for an in-depth examination of the current state of these organizations, the roots of their present vulnerability, and recommendations for the future. 

As part of its exploration of Diversity in the Arts, the Institute also hosted three public symposia at the University of Maryland featuring pioneers and current leaders from the field to discuss the history, current challenges, and future of these important organizations.

African American and Latino arts organizations are absolutely essential to the American arts ecology. In addition to producing remarkable art, they provide access to the arts for communities of color, bring arts education programs to children who have lost access to them in their public schools, and offer training for emerging artists. They may also correct historically propagated racial stereotypes or simply delight their audiences.

The DeVos Institute hopes that Diversity in the Arts moves people to look at the challenges of arts organizations of color in a new way. The Institute also hopes that leaders of every community will be moved to work together to ensure that the arts of every segment of our varied society are allowed to thrive.

Photos by Lisa Helfert.

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