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Anti-Bias Training for State Arts Agencies

NASAA’s professional development initiative, Anti-Bias Training for State Arts Agencies, helped state arts agencies navigate everyday biases that arise in the office, around the board table, in public forums and in interactions with constituents.


Why Anti-Bias Training?

As representatives of government organizations, state arts agency staff and council members have a special responsibility to recognize and reduce bias as we pursue our public service missions. But bias can be tricky to uproot because it is a natural part of who we are as humans. We all absorb group norms and social identities that affect our perceptions of the world. To process the complexities of our day-to-day to lives, we also are prone to unconscious preferences toward or against particular perspectives, behaviors and patterns. Even when we’re not aware of them, these preferences can reinforce particular ways of being and working.

In addition to affecting our individual actions and interactions, bias affects the institutions and systems that we create. When biases are left unchecked or go unnoticed, they limit us to particular ways of interacting and working, and they can leave out strategies or practices that could serve our goals.

NASAA’s anti-bias training helped members develop a deeper understanding of their own identities, and left them with tools to ask the right questions in order to begin to shift their practices and behavior toward more inclusive workplaces, interactions, programs and services. This training engendered individual and collective practices toward reducing bias by raising awareness and offering practical, positive actions members can pursue in their work in state arts agencies.

Session Objectives

  • Increase self-awareness on how our identities impact our work.
  • Develop shared meaning for terms like diversity, equity, inclusion and culture.
  • Begin to ask ourselves different questions to dig into what’s beneath the surface.
  • Practice using our self- and other-awareness to adapt our behavior toward inclusion.

The Training

NASAA’s anti-bias training series was offered for three member groups:

  • Executive Staff (for executive and deputy directors)
  • General Staff (for both program and administrative personnel)
  • Council Members (for the appointed boards of state arts agencies)

Each track considered the unique challenges and responsibilities of the peer group for which it was designed. All sessions within a track built upon each other, moving from anti-bias fundamentals through job-specific scenarios.

Participant Video

Our trainers at Team Dynamics asked all participants to view an introductory video prior to the session. The video introduces key terms and concepts and also covers:

  • equality vs. equity
  • how our awareness of cultural norms affects workplaces
  • what works—and doesn’t—with diversity, equity and inclusion training
  • how “embodied identity houses” affect our experiences at work and in the world
  • how “intercultural capacity” can help us achieve our goals


The below PDFs are worksheets related to the introductory video and are meant to help personalize and enrich the information discussed.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Worksheet

Dominant/Non-Dominant Worksheet

Elements of Culture Worksheet

Embodied Identity House Worksheet

Role Goal Soul Worksheet

Executive Staff Track

A three-part training for deputy directors and executive directors that offered anti-bias fundamentals then focused on leadership, reducing bias in supervision, and the creation of inclusive and equitable organizational cultures and systems.

Session 1 Slides

Session 2 Slides

Session 3 Slides

General Staff Track

A three-part training for program/administrative staff that offered anti-bias fundamentals then focused on reducing bias in interpersonal and group settings (staff teams, interactions with constituents, etc.) and “leading from the middle” to create equitable and inclusive programs and services.

Session 1 Slides

Session 2 Slides

Session 3 Slides

Council Member Track

A two-part training for councils/boards that offered anti-bias fundamentals then focused on reducing bias around the board table and tackled common governance challenges.

Session 1 Slides

Session 2 Slides

Meet the Trainers

Team Dynamics is a people of color-, woman- and LGBTQ-owned business. Cofounded by Trina C. Olson and Alfonso T. Wenker, Team Dynamics is a national strategy firm based in Minnesota that provides training and coaching to help leaders and workplaces live up to their potential through intentional and meaningful culture change. Recognizing the breadth of populations with whom state arts agencies regularly interact, Team Dynamics assigned NASAA a team of trainers—mixed across lines of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, religious tradition and more—for each track. This approach ensured that a robust diversity of lived experience, expertise and vantage points informed the program.


Banner image: Detail from Sharon Robinson’s “It’s All in the Genes” mixed media collage on canvas, 2015. This piece was selected for the Maryland State Arts Council’s juried exhibition IDENTITY, which explored the cultural, social, gender and racial intersections of multiple identities and honored self-reflections of artists in Maryland.