Strategic advisor and leadership consultant, Jarrod Williams, sheds light on the crucial intersection between the arts and social justice. Williams, also a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and Director of Leadership Giving at the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, brings his passion and expertise to the conversation, addressing the challenges and opportunities in connecting the arts to diverse communities.
Williams, alongside the show’s hosts, Jarrett Ransom and Julia Patrick, delved into the deep-rooted issues faced by performing arts organizations in promoting diversity and inclusion. He emphasizes that the performing arts have long grappled with the struggle between producing risk-taking artistic works and those that merely sell tickets. Performances that are considered “risky” or showcase diversity, often centered around African American or marginalized experiences, face significant barriers in the performing arts community.
This interview reveals how social justice is inextricably linked to the arts, providing a powerful platform for human expression, offering everyone the opportunity to convey emotions and stories that build empathy and create meaningful connections. Consequently, the arts play a crucial role in addressing social issues like systematic racism, voter suppression, and inequity.
One of the most pressing concerns highlighted by Williams was the lack of representation in both the audience and on the stage. For the performing arts to thrive and adapt to the post-COVID world, it is essential to nurture the next generation of artists and audiences by ensuring diversity and inclusion. Williams stressed that seeing role models and representations of oneself on stage fosters inspiration and encourages individuals from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the arts.
Addressing the root of the problem, Williams called for a transformative shift in the arts sector, where boards and leadership are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. He emphasizes the need for boards to move beyond mere rhetoric and actively promote diversity at all levels of their organizations, including programming and donor engagement.
Williams shares successful initiatives from Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, such as their $5 ticket program, which eliminates financial barriers to attendance. Additionally, the organization engages communities through workshops, dialogues, and educational sessions, fostering a deeper understanding of the performances and building a sense of belonging.