A TALK WITH DR. MARTA MORENO VEGA ON FUNDING DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS
by Wilkine Brutus for OOGEEWOOGEE
“We are actively dismantling the racial-cultural-art apartheid that continues to dominate the public discourse and practice…” -Dr. Marta Moreno Vega
2015, in the U.S., will be remembered for tragedy, stories about the fluidity of identity, and the ongoing social justice movements spearheaded by young millennials–a year of sociopolitical awareness and disruption. 2016, an election year, will focus on the implementation of solutions for systemic and institutional inequality, which makes the fight for arts organizations of color in the United States all the more important.
Marginalized communities of color are still fighting against cultural inequity, sustained by a Eurocentric establishment that perpetuates the condition through social and economic manipulation.
Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, alongside several other scholars, are challenging a recent DeVos study that basically blames the historical victims for their lack of socioeconomic resources. Dr. Vega is a pioneer in NYC’s arts and social justice movement, founder and director of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, and one of the first directors of the Museo del Barrio.
We caught up with her to add a little more context to the controversial study.
1.Tell us a little bit about the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and its work at the intersection of art and activism.
CCCADI is a multi-disciplinary center that has been using the art and cultures of the African diaspora as a tool for social change. For over 30 years, we have been combining arts and activism to bring personal transformation, community-building, and social justice to our communities. We are based in East Harlem, New York.
2.You have taken issue with a recent study making the rounds on diversity in the arts by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland that outlines the struggles of arts organizations of color and makes recommendations on how to improve the state of diversity in the arts. Why do you find the study problematic?
Simply put, the study perpetuates the status quo. It doesn’t address the historic racism, discrimination, exclusionary practices and marginalization of people of color and poor white communities.
What the study fails to see or recognize is that Eurocentric aesthetic products continue to be viewed as superior to those of people of color and poor white communities. Funders from both the public and private agencies have historically invested in institutions and art forms that reflect the assumed superiority; they have consistently under resourced and underfunded the art forms that they consider marginal, ethnic, folk, etc.
Instead of suggesting that small organizations should disappear to make way for a larger, select few, we need to celebrate the skill of small underfunded organizations that manage to be primary presenters of the art forms of the populations that reflect the cultural diversity that makes New York City and the nation the home of international populations. The passion and intelligence of cultural workers in these agencies have been able to sustain these institutions with little resources. The report ignores this reality.
Photo Credit: AMUN/The Art of Justice Conference