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Unpacking Bias in Arts Organizations

Photo courtesy Americans for the Arts

I mentioned that I would be co-facilitating a session at Americans for hte Arts with Tatiana Hernandez of the Knight Foundation and Charlie Jensen formerly of Arts for LA, now an Editor with Coburn School. Well, it happened and it was great! More than 60 people attended our session and the general comment upon exiting was that this session was critical and important to the conversation. They were so glad we had brought it to the convention.

The session opened with a mobile activity that invited participants to go and stand near any one of 12 definitions posted around the room. The instruction was to stand by a definition that was new to them or a word that was new to them. Most participants landed at "micro agression", however, a variety of other definitions had solid standing as well. Other words included - ism, tokenism, people of color, marginalized, agency, bias, priviledge, sphere of influence. Each grouping spent time talking about why they were drawn to that word/definition and what their experience was with the word.

After this ice breaker we focused in on the core of the session. The work we did together was framed around an anti-bias continuum adapted from an Anti-Racism Continuum developed by Crossroads Ministries. We utilized this framework to help group people into affinity groups based on their perceptions of their own organizational biases.


We maintained our focus on the individual perception of institutional bias, but through the process participants were able to assess their own bias as well.

As members of the Emerging Leaders Council, we had pushed hard for this topic to be part of the main convention and were pleased when it was accepted. This session was an excellent learning experience for me. For one, the co-facilitators are total geniuses and two, working across the country using skype, google docs and phone conferences was stretching for all of us.


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