Inclusion of the arts towards the New Normality

Photo by Ellery Sterling on Unsplash

By Cristina Vázquez

Inclusion is vital to reach the new normal, particularly if it is conceived as a necessary evolution against the ravages of the coronavirus, both in the artistic world and in life itself.

A reminder of the importance of being inclusive was, without a doubt, the death of the African-American George Floyd that occurred May 25, due to police brutality in Minneapolis. Floyd ́s death energize the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking great protests against racial injustice in the United States and internationally.

The BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community, which groups blacks, indigenous people and people of color (Latinos, Asians and the population of the Middle East, among others), called for action on June 8 for people to make demands directed at the whitheness in American theater. Their intention, stated on the We See You website is to create a new social contract to improve working conditions through an anti-racist and safe environment for producers, leaders, council members, artists, the creative teams and the BIPOC staff working on and off Broadway.

The demands also contemplate more inclusive audiences and changes in the content of the stories that are told on stage. Theaters in the United States, mostly feed their programming with white artists, and struggling BIPOCs are hired, from time to time, to justify the demands of a diverse project.

We See You urges white theaters to strive to fund BIPOC proposals, rather than forces them seek their own sources of financial support. They request the training of critics capable of analyzing these different proposals. The academy is required to go beyond the prevailing aesthetics, and they are asked to commit to a kind of teaching free of stereotypes.

In the words from We See You states: we form a multidisciplinary and
multigenerational collective willing to discuss how racism and white supremacy have shaped and corrupted theatrical institutions in the United States by demanding a more equitable and safe space for the BIPOC community.

Racial marginalization is not limited to theater. It is also experienced in opera, as reported in the article Opera Can No Longer Ignore Its Race Problem, published by The New York Times and written by Joshua Barone on July 16, 2020. The author acknowledges that while singers of color have positioned themselves internationally, off-stage leadership positions are filled by whites (the conductor, stage director, as well as company managers and CEOs, among others). The Metropolitan Opera House, the quintessential operatic house, in its 137 years of existence, notes Barone, has not staged a single work by a black composer.

Racial inequality prevails in other arts because official history has relegated the contributions of Afro-descendants and Latinos or Latinxs, a term that transcends the masculine and feminine genres with which reference is made to Latin Americans who were born here or other countries and live in the United States.

Gender inequality In Mexico and Latin America, unlike what happens in the US, the lack of inclusion in the art world is more marked among women, indigenous people and the LGBTTTIQ community. That is, among cultural minorities are groups of individuals that, they are for a historical are currently in a disadvantaged condition within society, according to the definition of the expert Paolo Comanducci.

COVID-19 has made gender inequality visible. Notorious examples are the webinars of the Ibero-American regions in which I have participated.
Even the talks on culture do not have a balanced reflection, because the male presence predominates, as occurred on Thursday, May 21, 2020, when celebrating the Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development by the Organization of Iberoamerican States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI).

In the virtual conversation promoted by the OEI, with specialists «of the highest level in the region», among the six panelists there was only one woman: Adriana Moscoso del Prado, Director General of Cultural Industries, Intellectual Property and Cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and Sport from Spain.

The lack of gender parity was also evident at the inaugural conference of the MUdaL forum (Music & Digital Transformation in Ibero-America), which was held virtually on July 16. All of the speakers were men: Paul Brindley (Music Ally), Octavio Arbeláez (Circulart-Mapas), Sergio Arbeláez (FIMPRO), Igor Lozada (Cultura UDG) and Enrique Vargas (SEGIB). I wonder: is there not a single woman in the teams of these participating institutions?

The inclusion and the guiding principle of the Mexican Federal Government that dictates «leave no one behind, leave no one out» is the basis of the Culture Sector Program 2020-2024, published on July 3 in the Official Gazette of the Federation, and derived from the National Development Plan from the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The truth is that this guide to public policies in the culture sector, which talks about guaranteeing equal access to culture for all people, prioritizing historically excluded groups, ends up being, as several specialists have said, including Ishtar Cardona, a document full of good intentions, but no actions.

Cardona reached that conclusion at the analysis table promoted by the NGO Cultural Interactivity and Development, which was broadcast live on July 8, 2020, and where she was the only woman who participated alongside Carlos Villaseñor, Ernesto Piedras and Carlos Lara.

Although the pandemic has involved the closure of spaces and the cancellation of artistic activities, it should not be forgotten that it offers the historic opportunity to rethink the agenda for a more flexible and creative points of view; to reform culture by prioritizing inclusion in actual practice, going beyond the only speech.

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