Meet the Panelists! #ACIturns5

Check out the talented group of panelists joining us to celebrate our 5th birthday on 9.19.19 at BostonArt! These leaders in the arts and culture sector will respond to Phase II of our Cultural Equity Gap Study, in which we share the stories and experiences of Boston area artists and arts leaders of color. You can join the conversation too, and RSVP today!

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Courtney D. Sharpe is an urban planner who focuses on advancing equitable access to resources in communities. Prior to becoming the Director of Planning for the Office of Arts and Culture, she served at the Boston Planning and Development Agency as the Senior Planner for Back Bay, Roxbury and Mattapan.

Courtney completed her bachelor’s at Northwestern University and her Master in Urban Planning from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. For her graduate studies she focused on urban governance and social justice and co-chaired the inaugural Black in Design Conference. Prior to joining the City of Boston, she was an Innovation Fellow and Innovation Field Lab Coordinator at the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center, worked for the federal government with General Services Administration, assisted with immigrant rights as an AmeriCorps member in Chicago, and taught English and Arts as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.


Karen Young is a cultural organizer, artist, and educator living in Boston, MA. Her primary art is the Japanese drum (taiko). Influenced by Japanese-American taiko activists of the 70s, Karen is most interested in the intersection of art, grassroots organizing, and policy. In 2018, she was selected as one of seven Boston AIRs (Artists in Residence) charged with addressing issues of resilience, racial equity, and policy by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. Her resulting project Older and Bolder, utilizes the arts to mobilize Boston elders. She is the founding director of The Genki Spark, co-founder of the Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival, and one of the key organizers behind Prior to pursuing the arts full time Karen played a key role in the youth and community development fields as the founder of Youth on Board and as a Presidential appointee on the Commission on National and Community Service.


After over 20 years as a performing musician, 15 years as a music professor, and 10 years as an arts administrator, Lecolion Washington has established himself as a leader for the next generation of arts entrepreneurs. He has been a staunch advocate of music as an agent for social change. Lecolion is the Executive Director of Community Music Center of Boston. Prior to moving to Boston, Lecolion was the Co-Founder/Executive Director of the PRIZM Ensemble in Memphis from 2009-2017, and he was the founder of the PRIZM International Chamber Music Festival. In 2015 he was named as one of the Memphis Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40. In 2019 he was selected as a Musical American Top Professional of the Year, honoring Innovators, Independent Thinkers and Entrepreneurs. In 2020 he was celebrated as a Boston HUBWeek "Change Maker", and he is the 2020 Chamber Music America Conference Planning Committee Chair.

Meet the Performers! #ACIturns5

We’re excited to highlight the amazing talent teaming up with us to celebrate our 5th birthday on 9.19.19 at BostonArt! It’ll be an incredible evening of community and networking, artistry, and activation as we build equitable arts and culture spaces together. It’s not too late to RSVP!

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Amanda Shea is a multidisciplinary artist residing in Boston. She has performed spoken word poetry at numerous venues throughout Boston, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art. She served as an official host for the 2018 and 2019 Boston Art & Music Soul Festival and the Arts Equity Summit. She has been featured on podcasts and television broadcasts such as ItsLitBoston, Boston Come Through, and Fahrenheit TV. She serves as a radio host on Live Free or Die Radio. Shea performed at UMASS Boston with The Poets' Theatre and independently for Phillis Wheatley Day. Shea performed at the Alvin Ailey Theatre with with original pieces on racism and identity. Shea appeared in the cast of The Poets’ Theatre’s seventh revival of Boston Abolitionists, a program developed in partnership with the Boston Athenaeum. Shea returned to the Boston Athenaeum as a curator for a performance titled, "Other Voices in the Room" which speaks to identity politics and cultural appropriation. In February 2020, she will be going on tour for the third time traveling to Africa. The “Awake” tour seeks to explore the role of art as both a revolutionary and spiritual tool for social justice and spiritual awakening in humans. Its goal is to utilize the tool of poetry in telling unapologetic stories of Africa while also awakening the consciousness of people through healing and love. Shea is a mother of two, artist and polymath.


Ny’lasia Brown likes to think of herself as a visual spoken word poet, making the metaphorical imagery of her poetry explicit by pairing visual media with her work. Because of the love she has for singing, she also incorporates music into her poetry. A rising junior at Match Charter Public School, the work she does represents her and her surroundings. An alum of ACI’s first cohort of Youth United Artists, Ny’lasia tries her best to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. Ny’lasia has taken this path of life seriously for some time, having joined Boston Pulse Youth Poets in the 8th grade, exemplifying her value of being true to one’s work. She has performed on college and university campuses and community events all around Boston, and in March of 2019 she was a closing keynote performer at ACI’s inaugural Arts Equity Summit.


Described as a “charismatic and captivating performer,” Ashleigh Gordon has recorded with Switzerland's Ensemble Proton and Germany's Ensemble Modern; performed with Grammy-nominated A Far Cry string ensemble; and appeared at the prestigious BBC Proms Festival with the Chineke! Orchestra.

Comfortable on an international stage, Ashleigh has performed in the Royal Albert and Royal Festival Halls (London), Konzerthaus Berlin and Oper Frankfurt (Germany), Gare du Nord and Dampfzentrale Bern (Switzerland), Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Lee Hysan Concert Hall (Hong Kong), and throughout Sofia, Bulgaria as part of the multi-disciplinary 180 Degrees Festival.

Ashleigh is co-founder, Artistic Director and violist of Castle of our Skins, a Boston-based concert and educational series devoted to celebrating Black Artistry through music. In recognition for her work, she has been featured in the International Musician Magazine, Boston Globe, awarded the Charles Walton Diversity Advocate award from the American Federation of Musicians, and was most recently voted as one of WBUR’s “ARTery 25”, twenty-five millennials of color impacting Boston’s arts and culture scene.

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Michael A. Rosegrant (any pronouns said w/ respect) is a theatre artist and poet whose work centers stories of identity, family, and history as a way to combat oppression. He is a founding member of Asian American Theatre Artists of Boston (AATAB) and serves on the steering committee of the API Arts Network in Boston. His acting credits include shows at Arena Stage, NextStop Theatre Company, Boston University, and George Mason University; assistant directing credits include Sara Porkalob’s Dragon Cycle at the American Repertory Theater. Michael has performed her spoken word poetry at various events including A.R.T.’s New Year Celebration and Arts Connect International’s Arts Equity Summit. In addition to performing, they love writing plays, which can be found on New Play Exchange. They are currently pursuing a BFA in Theatre Arts (Performance) with a concentration in Sociology and African American Studies from Boston University. Twitter/Instagram: @michael_arose

SAVE THE DATE! | 9/19/19

Join us on 9/19/19!

ACI turned five this year and to celebrate we are bringing community together for an evening of connectivity, artistry, advocacy and action in building equity in, and through, the arts.

The evening will feature live performances, a talk back panel with current Boston arts leaders on the state of equity in the arts sector, distribution of the findings from Phase II of the Cultural Equity Gap study, and of course dancing, delicious food and libations.

Join us on Thursday September 19th 2019 | 6pm - 9pm

Tickets are donation based, and the official RSVP is now open! The event is graciously hosted by Boston Art Inc. If you are interested in being on the host committee or sponsoring the event, please contact Marian via:

If you’d like to make a donation to ACI on behalf of our birthday celebration, 🎉 thank you! You can do so HERE.

Family is Forever: Remembering Manny Martínez

The ACI family has only grown in beauty over the years as we have had the privilege of working with amazingly kind, talented, and creative individuals. One of those incredible souls has been Emmanuel (Manny) Martínez. Today, as we mourn his loss, we also take time to remember the vibrancy of his life. We invite you to join us remembering a life well lived.

Manny may be gone in body, but his spirit, and the impact he left on the lives of all he met, remains. He came to the ACI community as an Artist Outreach Intern through Lesley University. It did not take long for us to see that Manny’s dedication to and passion for building equitable arts and culture spaces was exemplified outside of work hours as well. A multi lingual graphic designer, multi-media and mural artist, Manny used his skills sets to work toward justice and to beautify the lives of others. As a member of the LGBTQ and Latinx immigrant communities, he always brought much needed perspective to the table. When he joined us, Manny had recently completed a project that he organized in Sao Paolo Brazil, where he got an entire neighborhood involved in designing and painting a mural for an organization that houses LGBTQ youth without homes or in transition. When he finished his time with us, he was preparing to work on another mural in Mexico.

In the office we spoke of travels to Berlin and experiences living abroad. We discussed the complexities of navigating the legacies and impacts of colonization and systemic injustice. We also ate clandestine boxes of Peeps- his favorite. Even as we attempt to move forward as a community, we remember. We remember the way Manny made our Youth United Artists feel seen and supported, and encouraged them to pursue their artwork. We remember his honesty, vulnerability and openness in the office. We remember someone truly beautiful, inside and out.

Services in Honor of Manny’s Memory

Saturday July 27th: Mass 6PM-7PM // Wake 7PM-10PM

Saint Benedicts Church: 21 Hathorn St, Somerville, MA 02145

Sunday July 28th: A celebration of Emmanuel’s life, organized by his friends, community, and loved ones. We’re gathering to find peace, to celebrate his light, and continue the legacy of his dedication to social advocacy and QTPOC+ culture and pride through the arts.

5-9PM on Lesley’s campus: Washburn Auditorium, 99 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138


Monday July 29th: Funeral Services 10AM

Forrest Dale Cemetery: 150 Forrest St Malden, MA 02148

We’re Expanding our Board of Directors!

Join our team as we build equity and inclusion both in, and through, the arts.

ACI is recruiting new members for our Board of Directors! 

Fill out the Board Member Interest Form today.

We are seeking Board candidates who have a demonstrated alignment with ACI’s vision and mission to join our expanding team (family, really). Candidates of all geographic locations and backgrounds are encouraged to apply!


ACI partners with emerging arts leaders of color and arts influencers who hold institutional power in the contemporary art world, to collectively build equity, access, and inclusion through transformational leadership development.

At the core, we believe that:

  1. art is a human right and therefore must be accessible to all

  2. racism and marginalization, in any form, is a breach of human rights

  3. art serves as a conduit for cross-cultural understanding, deep and meaningful learning, creative expression, and community building, making it an adaptive tool for social change

  4. change must be fostered at a community, contextualized level to be effective and sustainable

  5. systems of oppression permeate conscious and unconscious thought making it imperative to support those already woke, and those awakening, to collaboratively work towards equity


ACI appoints BOD members for a 2 year commitment, which can be renewed. The BOD meets virtually monthly, and comes together as often as possible in Boston for ACI’s main events (such as ACI’s Arts Equity Summit). We are also planning a weekend-long BOD retreat, training and visioning process for the spring / summer of 2020 requiring in person participation.

If building equity in and through the arts resonates with you, fill out our Board Member Interest Form by Friday, August 16th to be in touch with us for next steps!

Meet ACI's new Associate Director!

Hello ACI family! My name is Allegra Fletcher, and many of you may already know me as this past year’s Programming Fellow, the one who sent endless emails leading up to the Arts Equity Summit. I am so excited to continue the journey as Associate Director this year, and I’d love to take a moment for share a little bit about my path to ACI. Here we go!

Home, Sweet Home

A Boston native, I was raised mostly in the Dorchester area. I also lived for a few years in New Orleans (where my father’s family is from) and Honduras (where my mother’s family is from). This allowed me to expand my definitions of ‘home’ and ‘identity’ from a young age, and gave me a love for travel I’m sure I’ll always have. 

All the same, Boston is home base. Boston has given me a sense of purpose and drive, and I’ll never grow out of proudly rocking my ‘617’ area code and obnoxiously rooting for our sports teams. Boston has a history both beautiful and painful, and there’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and make better decisions going forward. I plan to be one of the change agents that sees and makes that happen.

Processing Privilege on the Journey

As an Afro-Latina who grew up in a single-parent immigrant family home, I was not accustomed to thinking about my privilege until far too recently. Owning my privilege comes with a commitment to use it responsibly. I went to Boston Latin School for high school and attended Bryn Mawr College as a Posse Scholar. As I join ACI, I have just completed my masters in Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I am grateful for the many things I have gained through these institutions, and the connections with them I still have, that I get to bring to the work I do at ACI. 

Why ACI?

I am one of those people who trusts their instincts. Against any and all sense of conventional wisdom, I applied only to Harvard for my masters. It worked. I decided to apply the same logic to my search for internships, choosing ACI because of the holistic approach to systemic change and the inclusion of the arts in our programming and other activities. I did not know it then, but I had found a place in which I could bring my entire quirky self to the office without fear. At ACI I can be the over caffeinated arts and craftsy songwriting research nerd who for some reason sings while she eats when she really likes the food, that I always wanted to be (and truthfully always have been).  

The Roots, The Branches, and the Leaves

This June, as I prepared for my future with ACI, I explored our past. I visited ACI Artist Alum and peace ambassador Hyppolite Ntigurirwa in Rwanda, and our friends and partners over at Art and Global Health (ArtGlo) Malawi. I joined Hyppolite’s 100 day performance, Be the Peace Walk. This year is the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, and Hyppolite aims to highlight the importance of seeding peace and stopping the intergenerational transmission of hate. In Malawi, I and the staff at ArtGlo shared ideas around best practices and the effects we want our work to cause.

The personal and professional impact of this time is indescribable. In Rwanda and Malawi both I was adopted, told I am a daughter of the land, and reminded multiple times that the next time I visit, I am coming home. Professionally, I appreciated the opportunity to step into parallel justice work. I saw the same drive and passion to make the world a better place and to expand our ideas of collaboration.

I am blessed to recognize that mine is not the only story of pain and oppression, and to know that it doesn’t take away from my struggle to acknowledge someone else’s. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

As ACI’s Associate Director, I accept the invitation and challenge to say and do the difficult things I shrank from in the past, and to recognize the responsibility that comes with greater influence. In short, I commit to being the change I want to see.

ACI family - past, present and future, I look forward to us growing together. 

World Music/CRASHarts: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by World Music/CRASHarts

World Music/CRASHarts (WM/CA) is a nonprofit organization that presents diverse artistic experiences that inspire, entertain, challenge and transform. We provide a platform for established, emerging and under-represented global performing artists, fostering a diverse community committed to cultural equity and participation in greater Boston's arts arena.

For almost 30 years, WM/CA has used the power of the arts to provide a space for artistic dialogue and engagement. In the current political environment, we believe the need to create a common meeting ground for diverse audiences and artists to learn from each other, encourage cross-cultural collaborations, and share in the excitement of cultural discovery is increasingly important in a divided country and world. WM/CA strives to offer audiences an opportunity to share in many different artistic expressions and seeks to foster an atmosphere of cultural exploration and diversity that reflects today’s global community. 

 We are committed to creating an inclusive and supportive environment at our performances, in our offices, and in the community. We strive for everyone to feel welcome and valued regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability and disability, and age.

We understand that achieving equity is a continuous process and one we embrace as essential to our mission.

Organizational Values

The following organizational values will guide WM/CA’s future work:

  • We strive to present the highest quality performing arts and offer unique programming in greater Boston.

  •  We seek to build cultural bridges across diverse communities of artists and audiences.

  • We work to create global cultural awareness and understanding on a local level.

  • We facilitate inclusion by making outstanding art accessible—by breadth of venues, pricing of admission, and education programs.

  • We search for the new and unusual, providing a platform for our artists’ creative expression while challenging our audiences’ assumptions.

Intended Impact

WM/CA impacts the greater Boston community by creating (a) awareness and respect for different cultures through the performing arts, (b) inclusive and accessible cross-cultural experiences that encourage diverse audiences to come together as a cultural community, (c) opportunities for local immigrant communities to celebrate and share their cultural identities and heritage; and d) a platform for artists of different cultures to expand and share their newest work through presenting premieres, newly commissioned work, and innovative collaborations.

You can learn more about the work WM/CA is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

Now + There: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by Now + There

Equality is at the core of Now + There’s (N+T) work. Now in our fifth year of producing engaging, thought-provoking public art, N+T centers not only artistic vision but connecting people, transforming spaces, and sparking conversation. Social justice is inherent in what we do.

So we couldn’t be more excited to join Arts Connect International (ACI) as a Community Partner for the upcoming Arts Equity Summit. ACI’s work connecting emerging artists, artists of color, and communities with arts institutions is crucial in developing an inclusive arts ecosystem in Boston.

Arts equity means investing in Boston-based artists and building neighborhood connections. Take, for example, N+T’s Public Art Accelerator program. The Accelerator guides Boston-area artists through a 6-month curriculum and funds their projects with grants up to $25,000. In 2018, seven Accelerator participants — including two black artists and one Latina artist —  produced six projects in neighborhoods spanning Dorchester to East Boston, with an emphasis on community partnership and engagement. In 2019, six more artists will create new, community-focused projects that engage with issues of justice, power, and equality.

Arts equity means prioritizing an intersectional approach to producing and creating public art. In 2017, our “Year of the Woman,” we paid over $37k to nine female artists, over half of whom were women of color, in conceptual design fees and project labor. In 2018, N+T partnered with 21 diverse community partners and invested $120,000 in neighborhoods not always served by public art through Accelerator funding, including Roxbury, East Boston, Jackson/Hyde Square, and Egleston Square. As we gear up for our 2019 season, we’re looking forward to forging even more connections throughout Boston,  including a recently-announced partnership with DS4SI for an upcoming artwork project in Upham’s Corner, Dorchester.

Perhaps most importantly, working towards equity means listening. To that end, we’re looking forward to our conversation on creating a more equitable climate for public art in Boston at AES19. Our Summit panel, “Loop-breaking: creating a virtuous cycle of public art production,” will consider the challenges of creating truly community-oriented artworks and discuss barriers to entry for public art artists and audiences alike.

We’re grateful to ACI for making this conference possible, and we look forward to gathering together with friends and partners, new and old. Thanks for having us, AES19!

You can learn more about the work N+T is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

ARTE: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by Bella Mara DeVaan, Intern at Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE) 

Since our first mural in the Bronx in 2011, ARTE has worked extensively with communities throughout New York City, providing quality interactive arts-based activities that educate young people about human rights in schools, community-based organizations, and jails.

The first facet of our mission is to educate youth on human rights and equip them with the knowledge to identify the root causes of systemic inequity. Realizing that there was a great disconnect between human rights theory and practice in our students’ day-to-day life, we initially developed to support their communities in realizing and advocating for their inherent human rights.

We’ve found that participants become more knowledgeable, interested, and passionate in human rights through the process of public art and particularly in the creation of a public mural. Public murals are a valuable component in our curricula and are designed to empower both students and their local communities to engage in questions surrounding human rights justice and art as a tool for social change--allowing them to reimagine justice actively in their own backyards.

ARTE’s first mural focused on the issue of human trafficking. Since then, community members have learned and painted about human rights violations both within the United States and internationally. Some of these issues have included harsh sentencing, poor prison conditions, child slavery, gender inequity, and police brutality. Inspiration has come from women activists and street artists of color.

Our artwork is motivated by history and is another reason we prioritize equity in our pedagogy. We’re currently fundraising to publish a redesigned edition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s a graphic and contemporary reconception of our founding document, one which feels esoteric and out of reach after 70 years of existence. To reassert its relevance in the lives of our students, we believe releasing the document as an interactive and sleek convertible booklet and poster will bring the text’s mission into the modern day.

ARTE strives to offer a platform on which students can freely and safely express themselves and their opinions, all the while providing an arts education their schools and communities often aren’t able to offer. We equip youth with organizing skills that enable them to collectively activate others in steering society towards justice, using their lingua franca and multisensory modes of communication.

From comfort with identifying root causes of systemic inequity to feeling empowered to uproot them through the employment of creativity and galvanization of resources and communities, ARTE ultimately equips our students to cultivate equity in their own lives. The tenor and adaptability of our workshops, interdisciplinary curricula, and deep commitment to social justice are why we believe equity is at the basis of our work as a non-profit.

You can learn more about the work ARTE is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

Pinkcomma: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by Shannon McLean

Pinkcomma Gallery opened at a time of shifting design sensibilities in Boston. While a significant amount of the city’s work is produced by the largest corporate firms, the gallery aims to foster and recognize a more creative and experimental scene that has grown out of one of the world’s most significant capitals of architectural education.

The gallery highlights innovative thinkers of diverse interests. This culture of experimentation and creativity is on the rise, yet continues to need independent venues to encourage its growth. Pinkcomma showcases an emerging generation of talented practitioners, offering them a platform while encouraging broader public support for their innovative sensibility.

At the same time, Pinkcomma is a place for the exchange and expansion of ideas within the region’s design scene, not just in terms of architecture, but also in the disciplines of landscape, graphics, urbanism, interiors, and industrial design. The gallery is a neutral ground that brings together thinkers from the six design schools and countless professional practices.

The effects have been significant. More than fifty exhibits and gatherings have occurred since opening. Just this year alone, the national Progressive Architecture Awards program includes three firms that had previously exhibited their work in solo shows at Pinkcomma. The gallery’s impact has been recognized by the Boston Society of Architects with the organization’s Commonwealth Award. In short, the gallery performs an important service to the design community: part launching platform, part mixing chamber, it is a place where new design ideas are formed, tested, challenged, and disseminated.

You can learn more about the work Pinkcomma is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

Dunamis: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by Dunamis

Dunamis believes that the lack of comprehensive education is one of the greatest barriers to equity. Therefore, our organization works to provide emerging artists and arts-managers with the tools they need to build successful and long-lasting careers in the arts. Through workshops and individual consultations with our artists, we help them understand their unique identities, provide them with professional development training and support in producing their work.

With our Arts Managers we actively work to build a pipeline of diverse arts leaders that challenge the status quo and support work that is reflective of the communities they serve.

You can learn more about the work Dunamis is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by Rhoda Bernard

The Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs (BIAESN)is a catalyst for the inclusion of individuals with special needs in all aspects of performing and visual arts education. Our mission at BIAESN is threefold. First, we provide arts education programs, including private music lessons, music classes, ensembles, two adaptive dance programs, and a theatre program, all specifically for students with disabilities, ages 3 to 93. These programs provide a safe and nurturing environment that meets the individual needs of our students, providing opportunities for them to express themselves through the arts, and challenging them to become the best artists that they can be. Second, we are home to the only Masters in Music Education with a Concentration in Autism graduate program in the world. This program, offered through the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, seeks to prepare the next generation of music educators to work with students with autism and other special needs. Finally, BIAESN provides Professional Development opportunities for arts educators currently in the field who wish to broaden their skill set and provide a more equitable arts education experience for their students with disabilities.

Through these three initiatives, BIAESN is changing the landscape for students with disabilities both by providing opportunities right here at Berklee, and by helping to train current and future teachers near and far to provide better arts education opportunities for all their students.

You can learn more about the work BIAES is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

HowlRound: #AES19 Partner Highlight

Written by: HowlRound Theatre Commons

HowlRound is a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide that amplifies progressive, disruptive ideas about the art form and facilitates connection between diverse practitioners. HowlRound’s creation was a direct response to: 1) research that suggested artists were increasingly distant from the center of theatremaking within not-for-profit institutional infrastructure, and 2) the new possibilities created by technology to influence theatre practice. Our founding came at a time when we saw too many voices left off our stages, not represented inside of our institutions, and not recognized for their substantial contribution to our past and present. We set about to create a group of tools that would amplify voices and issues chronically underrepresented and unheard in the theatre.

We found an organizing principle in the “commons”—a social structure that invites open participation around shared values. HowlRound is a knowledge commons that encourages freely sharing intellectual and artistic resources and expertise. It is our strong belief that the power of live theatre connects us across difference, puts us in proximity of one another, and strengthens our tether to our commonalities.

We value generosity and abundance—all are welcome and necessary; community and collaboration over isolation and competition; diverse aesthetics and the evolution of forms of theatre practice; equity, inclusivity, and accessibility for underrepresented theatre communities and practices; and global citizenship—local communities intersecting with global practice.

You can learn more about the work HowlRound is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

Brain Arts Organization: #AES19 Partner Highlight


Written by Emma Leavitt

Brain Arts Organization works to address equity and inclusion by creating platforms for emerging, underrepresented, and independent artists. Since 2009, Brain Arts Organization has been paying artists above all operating and production costs. We believe that artists need support wherever they can find it- even from volunteers who are artists themselves. With the cost of living in the Greater Boston Area always increasing, we believe that it is imperative to support artists actively working in the city. Artists that do not come from wealthy or historically well-supported backgrounds are often at a disadvantage because of these rising living costs.

Through our programs, we work to provide opportunities to all working artists, so that the cultural identity of the city and region can reflect its diverse makeup. We also believe that when artists are provided opportunities to develop their practice, they have the ability to meaningfully impact and better their communities.

At our community-driven art space in Dorchester, we prioritize providing space either for free or at affordable rates to artists from the Dorchester and surrounding neighborhoods. We meet emerging artists at their level and facilitate and assist them so that they can be empowered to create and inspire their communities. We specifically work to connect artists and other community organizations in order to find opportunities for everyone working within this sphere to further their own goals.

Beyond the activities at the art space, our programs and media address the imperative of equity head-on. Since its establishment, our organization has worked to curate a wide audience of patrons who support emerging and underrepresented artists. These artists are prioritized when booking events and always paid for their performances. Our free newspaper, published monthly, provides an access point to the arts for the often forgotten offline demographic, and our website acts as an online alternative to mainstream or social media controlled outlets. Together, these publications serve as a platform to promote the artists featured, as well as a stepping stone for the volunteer staff of writers, administrators, artists, and photographers who run them. Finally, every other month, we host an art market where vendors participate at a low cost and sell their work to the community. Fundamentally, these programs exist to help develop talent and ensure that underrepresented artists continue to develop the cultural identity of the city and region.

Our organization has been built organically by volunteers who have the capacity and drive to advocate and produce platforms for the arts in the Greater Boston Area. Our volunteers utilize the free time and privilege they have to work towards the greater goal of arts and community building. These volunteers are able to empower others within their own communities, in contributing to the promotion and production of art and other creative endeavors, and also in considering how these values overlap with civic participation.

You can learn more about the work Brain Arts Project is doing by visiting their website. You can also join us as we partner for the Arts Equity Summit by checking out our kick-off event on Friday, March 22nd!

Are YOU seeing the Color Purple? (hint: you should be)

By: Michelle Song, ACI Intern

Source: The BOCH Center website 

Source: The BOCH Center website 

How does someone convene diverse groups of people together in the same space to see a performance that is significantly culturally loaded, and therefore marginalized? This is the leading question that brought twenty arts non-profit professionals together for a roundtable discussion at the historical Boch center in downtown Boston.

Organized by the outreach staff at the Boch center, their intention is to diversify Boch theatre’s audiences, and to pack the house, particularly in time for The Color Purple, a Broadway adaptation of Alice Walker’s extraordinary novel with an all African American cast. The Color Purple was the first book by a black female writer to win the Pulitzer prize and National Book Awards in 1983. The musical adaptation of this literary touchstone is another reminder of the troubled racial history of America, as well as an homage to the resilient black women in the face of struggle throughout this history. For these reasons, the musical bears profound significance from script to stage.

The round table held by the Boch center was set up on the main stage inside the theatre. Bright, dazzling lights casted upon the beautiful grand stage indicated to me that I was among some brilliant minds and important decision makers of Boston’s non-profit community. My initial intimidation was infused with admiration. Smiling with nervousness, I shook the hands of other attendees as I introduced myself alongside my boss, the founder of Arts Connect International, Marian Brown.

Being a complete newcomer to the non-profit world, I observed with curiosity the skillful and confident networking that unfolded around me, a scene that reminded me of the importance of mutual support in the non-profit community. A few minutes later, we settled in our seats, our faces beaming with the contentment of new friendships. Boch Center’s president Josiah (Joe) Spaulding initiated a round of formal self introductions. I held my breath until it was my turn, and stumbled through my short speech with a tremble in my voice. With slight embarrassment I silently noted to myself that I had a long way to go in carrying a smooth networking conversation.

Following the introductions, Mr. Spaulding showed us an incredibly moving preview of The Color Purple. Even from the sneakpeek, I was incredibly moved by the musical’s emotional intensity. There was no doubt in my mind that this was a musical that can profoundly empower both its cast and crew, and the audiences. Mr. Spaulding shared his personal memories from over a decade ago, when The Color Purple first premiered at the theatre.

He reflected that in 2006, The Color Purple was shown alongside Jersey Boys, and it was no surprise that the audience demographics of the two shows were visibly divided: the audiences for The Color Purple was mostly black, while white audiences flocked to see Jersey Boys. This anecdote illuminated the primary objective of the round table convening, namely, how can the Boch Center be more engaging with its future programs, and specifically with The Color Purple.

One of the stakeholders present began by asking a “clarifying question” that catalyzed the momentum of the discussion: “Who exactly are we talking about when we are talking about making an institution more “engaging”?” Her question was received by a chain of nodding. We all understood the more explicit underlying questions--who is not coming to see the show? Which demographic groups are excluded?

One of the participants, who works both at a university’s student center, and as pastor at a historically black church, shared his experiences of using different approaches to attract two different demographic groups -- college students and church members. As a recent college graduate myself, I resonated with all the barriers that discourage college students from entering the theaters: we depend almost entirely on social media for information, and we’re almost always broke. Just last week, my roommate, a true theatre enthusiast, was complaining to me about the impossible ticket prices that forced her to choose between two of her favorite shows.

As the topics of affordability and social media marketing progressed, the discussion arrived at a collective agreement that The Color Purple was undeniably a difficult show to market. One of the participant laid bare the fundamental issues when it comes to marketing a show like The Color Purple. “The problem” she stated, “is not how we can get more people to see the show, since the show is already well-received among the African American audiences. The problem is how can we bring the white people to come see this show.”

This participant who so unapologetically hit the nail in the head was, in my opinion, the most articulate and impactful participant of the day. With infectious enthusiasm, she proposed that the Boch Centre shifts its marketing narrative to confront the difficult subject matter head-on, especially given its pertinence to the current political climate. Her speech not only laid bare the bigger political impact of the revolutionary show, but also enlightened the real power of theatre as an art form.

She remarked that theatre is not a place of opulence and good-manners, but instead, it’s about bringing people from different backgrounds to sit next to one another. While this task is ambitious, we could all agree that to realize it requires a total paradigm shift that demands more from big institutions like the Boch Center. To start with, the marketing department at the Boch Center should take a firm stance on the progressive message they wish to promote through the show. It shouldn’t hesitate to communicate explicit messages such as: “Dear white audiences: by coming to see the show, you are creating changes.”

With gratitude and hopeful visions for the future, the round table discussion concluded, and so did my first public event with ACI. As an intern who’s new to the nonprofit sector, it was an eye-opening experience. I was impressed and slightly surprised with the degree of openness of each participant, despite the formality and seriousness of the setting. Although many of them didn’t know each other well, they didn’t shy away from offering constructive criticisms and speaking out about what they found problematic.

As we exited the theatre hall, Marian and I talked about other lingering questions that continued to unsettle us-- questions that perhaps couldn’t be answered at the discussion, within the confines of the opulent theatre. We discussed that while it was important for large institutions like the Boch to enhance diversity and audience engagement agendas, what’s equally important is the reallocation of resources to smaller institutions whose works empower underrepresented demographic groups, which is currently almost non-existent in the Boston arts funding landscape.

Personally, I was left contemplating some questions that I still couldn’t find the answers for, like: Even if theatre becomes significantly more affordable for millennials and students like myself, will it make its way among our entertainment of choice? In other words, thinking about theatre as a cultural construction: what is the extent of its capacity to engage audiences, especially considering the fact that audience behaviors are already coded by their cultural conditioning?

Furthermore, how does theatre’s physical construction act as a mechanism that defines, or, in certain cases, confines the art form? Although I don’t have answers to these questions yet, I believe that while institutions like the Boch Center focuses on issues of representation within the theatre, it is perhaps also important to look beyond the walls of grandiose performance halls.

There are actions that can be taken by art institutions and audiences alike in support of other community rooted art forms might be equally, if not more effective in congregating different communities, bodies and ideas.


As an intern, Michell supports ACI's grant writing and communications. A recent graduate from Mount Holyoke in Critical Social Thought and Economics, Michelle is passionate about contemporary art and curating. She seeks to learn best practices for curation as a way to catalyze dialogue and knowledge production, with a focus on social justice. 

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Breaking Silence Silently

Breaking Silence Silently

Artist Leader Hyppolite provides an account of the power of theater in dealing with trauma. He emphasizes that when participating in the arts, one needn't directly talk about a traumatic experience in order to come to terms with it.