NASAA Notes: December 2020


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Pam Breaux

December issue
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December 1, 2020

Continuing to Prioritize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

As NASAA continues to prioritize advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) internally and at state arts agencies, I wish to call to your attention our updated list of programmatic and operational DEI activities. As a field, state arts agencies are advancing diversity, equity and inclusion; this year members more acutely focused on racial equity, and this critical work continues.

At NASAA we embrace our role to provide the leadership, resources and training needed to empower your agency to achieve diverse, equitable and inclusive policies, practices and programs. We began this journey in earnest in 2015 internally and alongside state arts agencies; we continued with the adoption of NASAA’s DEI policy statement in 2016. We also centered this important work within our strategic plan, and we keep the priority current each year as we craft our annual action plan. Within the fiscal year 2021 action plan, you’ll find that advancing diversity, equity and inclusion is again one of four key priorities for NASAA, and we embody these principles by integrating them within activities across all of our goals.

When you explore our updated DEI activities list, you’ll see that our work is organized within three themes that demonstrate how we focus our efforts. As is always appropriate at NASAA, these themes focus first on serving SAAs; they also focus on doing the internal work critical to our (and all) DEI efforts, as well as doing the work with partners:

  • Empower State Arts Agencies to Advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Achieve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within NASAA’s Governance and Management Portfolios
  • Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through Strategic Partnerships

I’d like to highlight a few of the activities we engaged in during 2020 in service to these themes.

Empower State Arts Agencies to Advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

We developed a new Equity Choice Points tool to help state arts agencies identify bias and barriers embedded within their traditional grant-making practices. We designed it to be a practical tool to assist with eligibility and adjudication criteria as well as application and award processes.

We created an Inclusive Language Guide for state arts agencies. Offering language guidance around race, ability, age, LGBTQA+ identity, economic status and more, this new guide coaches our field on how to avoid stereotypes and acknowledge differences with respect.

In conjunction with the Inclusive Language Guide rollout, NASAA created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hub on our website. It provides one-stop shopping for models, resources, professional development opportunities and the policy documents that guide NASAA’s DEI work.

Achieve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within NASAA’s Governance and Management Portfolios

NASAA’s 2020 Nominating Committee prioritized identifying diverse candidates, specifically people of color, people under 50 and people from states that have been underrepresented on the NASAA board. In addition, the committee made changes to NASAA’s board nominations process to reduce barriers to participation, including streamlining application forms and asking nominators to write statements of support for prospective candidates. In October 2015, 10% of the NASAA board was made up of people of color; currently, 52% of the board is comprised of people of color. Race is an important consideration for diversity, yet it’s not our only measurement. I share this statistic to illustrate that our DEI goals and focused actions are helping NASAA move the needle toward more inclusive leadership.

NASAA continued to diversify how and where we recruit candidates for staff positions. We include outreach at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Washington, D.C., area, and from Richmond, Virginia, to Baltimore, Maryland. NASAA also began recruiting on highly rated diversity focused websites. We continued to conduct individual outreach efforts with colleagues of color as they become part of our network, helping us promote our job openings through their personal/professional networks.

Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through Strategic Partnerships

NASAA chaired the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) Equity Working Group. The group is a professional learning community that gathers to support ongoing learning and dialogue related to diversity, equity, inclusion and access among national arts education organizations that are affiliated with AEP.

NASAA has reconnected to and is convening the arts grant-making collaborative team responsible for developing the popular publication RE-Tool: Racial Equity in the Panel Process, which was coauthored by NASAA in 2018. The group is exploring strategies for next steps, which likely will result in an amended publication designed to add new guidance for advancing racial equity in grant making.

As we move into a new year, NASAA is continuing its multiyear diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, such as:

  • the State Arts Agency Arts Education Managers Professional Development Institute, with its continued focus on equity and access
  • Visualizing Equity in Grant Making mapping services for state arts agencies
  • infusing DEI principles across all NASAA learning services
  • lending a leadership voice to DEI within and beyond our membership
  • supporting NASAA’s State Arts Agency People of Color Affinity Group

We’ll also:

  • launch the second iteration of NASAA’s mentorship program for SAA people of color;
  • initiate a new grant-making audit and review service that engages DEI experts to assess equity factors in state arts agency grant guidelines, adjudication criteria and award systems. Related assessment results can spur changes in state arts agency policy and practice to attain greater equity in deploying public resources. (This activity is contingent upon securing foundation support.)

As we continue on this journey, you can count on NASAA to remain committed to ongoing reflection, dialogue and learning to advance diversity, equity and inclusion authentically and alongside state arts agencies. You can also count on us to be transparent and keep you updated about this work.

As always, your ideas about how we move forward are always grounding, informative and welcome, so please feel free to let me know your thoughts and suggestions as we continue this journey together.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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