Equity in the Arts: Can Local Arts Councils Do Better?

“To whom much is given, much is required.” A stalwart in the Black creative community here in Columbus, Ohio said that to me when I started a job at a local arts council in 2015. It was a place I had always dreamed of working. Who wouldn’t want to support artists while simultaneously effecting change in their community? I was honored, and beyond excited. The support I received from my immediate creative community was immeasurable, and I carried with me their dreams, as well as my own. I could not let them down, lest I be seen as a failure.

That same excitement quickly turned to dread. It wasn’t the work—far from it; I absolutely loved my job and what it meant for me personally as well as the community. However, I soon realized I was one of only two Black arts administrators in the entire city. Let that sink in for a moment … I’ll wait … Two arts administrators of color in a major metropolitan city of approximately 880,000. A population that, by the way, makes Columbus the 15th largest city in the United States. A fact of which we are very proud. Regardless, that old adage, “Pride comes before a fall,” often holds true; and as far as I’m concerned—as an arts administrator with over 15 years in the sector—Columbus was failing its art communities.

While the past five years have seen a major influx of creatives and the development of grassroots and community-centered arts-based organizations, many of which were developed and run by Black and Brown artists, the only two arts councils in the city cannot seem to keep up. I continuously witnessed Black and Brown artists be passed up for funding or representation, while white creatives remained at the forefront. Yet, come every Black History Month, the council was sure to reach out to a Black creative or two. You know, just for appearance’s sake. Their ideas of support are outdated, and let’s not even begin to talk about the conflicts of interests that occur. In my office of 10 employees, six staff members resigned during my time there; that’s 60% of the staff, which is both an astounding and troubling percentage for employee retention for such a small organization.

I was the only non-white administrator, and with that came much backlash from my white supervisors. For example, having led a community centered workshop, I was approached by artists who were concerned with the lack of funding and representation for diverse groups of creatives. I wholeheartedly agreed. We could do better, and I would make sure “better” happened. However, when I took the news back to my office, the only reply I received was, “You’ll just have to let them know it can’t be about Black and white artists all the time.” Not convinced? Here’s another example. A statewide meeting for all arts administrators was held where we could talk about strategic plans for the coming years. Out of over 100 professionals, again, there were just two of us Black administrators, the same two, in the room. If your stomach didn’t drop when you read that as mine did, I’m afraid to say you are part of the problem. Add to that constantly being overlooked for promotion despite my years of experience, coupled with senior administration’s inability to associate with, understand, or care about peoples outside of their own ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or immediate community, and they’re guaranteed to fail eventually.

I became hyper-aware of my front facing role in the community and was ashamed to be part of the “ivory tower.” My time was mostly spent appeasing my peers whilst remaining loyal to my employers. No matter what I did, I could not make the other nine people in my office realize that the ways in which they were approaching arts funding and support were antiquated and ineffectual. I suppose that’s because out of 27 board members, a vast majority of them are city council members, one even being the daughter-in-law of the arts council president. Additionally, as if it couldn’t get any worse, the arts council does not officially report to any governing body apart from the board, making it impossible for me to bring about change.

If you do not happen to be a Black or Brown woman, you’ll never understand the strife we face in the workplace, and yes, that also includes arts-based jobs. Those of us in the creative sector have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back and think we’re not susceptible to the same prejudices and hiring shortcomings as the rest of the world. This is simply not true. Having been in the field for more than half of my career, and working with numerous national and international arts councils, I can say that the arts are severely lacking in diversity, which in and of itself seems to be a contradiction.

Inequity needs to cease being the status quo, but remaining ignorant to difference, diversity, and inclusion on all levels seems to have become industry standard. So, how do we change these practices? I task arts leaders to look at their hiring practices, including their human resources personnel; dismantle their state of privileged seclusion; abolish the wage gap; be more accessible; be purposeful in hiring and community outreach; hire experienced employees; and participate in annual implicit bias training. It’s 2019—at this point, there’s really no excuse to lack a diverse workforce; and for companies that still don’t understand, check out these 50+ Ideas for Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. I promise you’ll thank me later.

Infinity: Columbus Black International Film Festival Call for Submissions

Infinity: The 3rd Annual Columbus Black International Film Festival

The 3rd Annual Columbus Black International Film Festival now opens its CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. For more information on submissions, or if you would like to see an example of the lineup from CBIFF 2018, visit http://bit.ly/2SUR4fM. You can contact columbusbiff@gmail.com with questions regarding the festival.

ABOUT THE FESTIVAL The primary objective of the Columbus Black International Film Festival is to showcase Black filmmakers locally, nationally and internationally, while highlighting a spectrum of stories told by people of the African diaspora.  This festival also provides an advantage for filmmakers and the community to learn about the film industry through educational workshops and panel discussions, a safe and brave space to showcase film, and an opportunity to network with the filmmakers in Columbus, OH. Columbus is the heart of America and home to some of the most creative Black filmmakers in the country. CBIFF strives to showcase new and emerging talent as well as talent that has represented our communities for years.

GENERAL RULES & SUBMISSION GUIDELINES All films must be produced, written or directed by a filmmaker of African descent, and must have been completed on or after June 1, 2014.

Short films: running time; 5-20 mins, not to exceed 20 mins
Feature films: running time; 90 mins, not exceeding 90 mins
Music videos: running time not to exceed 6 mins
Homegrown: A film made by a Columbus native or a filmmaker exclusively residing in Columbus Ohio; applicable running time guidelines will apply
Documentary Film: running time; 5-90 mins

Short: Max 20 pages
Feature: Max 90 pages
Filmmakers will need to send us a digital copy of the film in MOV. or MP4 format for screening purposes.
Filmmakers must be cleared for all copyrighted materials including movie posters and trailers.

Filmmakers are encouraged to submit a digital and/or online version of their films in a format such as AVI, FLV, WMV, MP4, MOV, QT, WMV, AVCHD, FLV, H.264, or DivX. If these file formats do not exist, please submit a link to your film on a site such as Vimeo, YouTube, Dailymotion, or MetaCafe. If applicable, include all passwords for video access.

DVD and VHS copies will not be accepted.

Please note: There is a submission fee. With your playable submission, please include a synopsis, crew list, press kit and any stills you would like to appear in the program and/or advertisements if your film is accepted.

Dates & Deadlines

January 15, 2019 Submissions Open

February 28, 2019 Early bird Deadline

April 30, 2019 Regular Deadline

June 30, 2019 Late Deadline

July 20, 2019 Extended Deadline

August 1, 2019 Notification Date

August 22-25, 2019 Event Date

Submit all films via Film Freeway at: http://bit.ly/CBIFF2019

You can ‘Like’ and follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @columbusbiff.

Please contact CBIFF creator Cristyn Steward at columbusbiff@gmail.com for more information.

2018 National Film Registry (alphabetical order)

Films Selected for the 2018 National Film Registry (alphabetical order)

1. Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

2. Broadcast News (1987)

3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

4. Cinderella (1950)

5. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

6. Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency

7. Eve’s Bayou (1997)

8. The Girl Without a Soul (1917)

9. Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984)

10. Hearts and Minds (1974)

11. Hud (1963)

12. The Informer (1935)

13. Jurassic Park (1993)

14. The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

15. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

16. Monterey Pop (1968)

17. My Fair Lady (1964)

18. The Navigator (1924)

19. On the Town (1949)

20. One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

21. Pickup on South Street (1953)

22. Rebecca (1940)

23. The Shining (1980)

24. Smoke Signals (1998)

25. Something Good – Negro Kiss (1898)

Library of Congress National Film Registry Announces the Annual Selection of 25 of America’s Most Influential Motion Pictures

For Release 9am

December 17

Library of Congress National Film Registry Announces the Annual Selection of 25 of America’s Most Influential Motion Pictures

“Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People”, “Eve’s Bayou”, and “Something Good” among the titles added.

Columbus, OH— December 17 — On Wednesday, December 12, 2018, the Library of Congress National Film Registry announced the annual selection of 25 of America’s most influential motion pictures to be inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.

For its 30th year selection, the National Film Registry included “Rebecca” (1940), “Cinderella (1950), and “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962). A short-animated film entitled “Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People”, by director Ayoka Chenzira, one of the industry’s first black female animators was also selected. “For my independently produced animated experimental film to be included in the National Film Registry is quite an honor,” said Chenzira. “I never imagined that ‘Hair Piece’ would be considered to have cultural significance outside of its original intent, which was a conversation and a love letter to Black women (and some men) about identity, beauty and self-acceptance in the face of tremendous odds.”

The new list also includes “Something Good — Negro Kiss,” a 29-second film that is believed to be the earliest known footage of African-American intimacy on screen, as well as director Kasi Lemmons’ 1997 film Eve’s Bayou.

Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the National Film Preservation Board works to ensure the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s film heritage, including: advising the Librarian on its recommendations for annual selections to the National Film Registry, apprising the Librarian of changing trends and policies in the field of film preservation, and counseling the Librarian on ongoing implementation of the National Film Preservation Plan. The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation. Featuring the first comprehensive look at American film preservation. Information was gathered through hundreds of interviews and library research, as well as public testimony and written statements from over 100 organizations and individuals.


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Keya Crenshaw
Black Chick Media