Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA)
The Vermont Arts Council will mobilize our collective energies toward the broader anti-racist transformation of Vermont. We believe that focusing our attention on anti-racism and continuing our work on accessibility are the most powerful ways we begin to make true our vision that “everyone in Vermont has access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education, and communities.”
We recognize that the current structures of marginalization and racism in American society in which we operate are built upon centuries of anti-Black racism and settler colonialism.
Arts organizations—especially those that are predominantly white—have a deep responsibility to stand against hatred and racial injustice. We often say the arts promote empathy, that a great painting, sculpture, or poem has the power to lift us above our divisions and inspire us to transcend our personal point of view, to stand in the shoes of another. Now is the time to be true to those values.
We recognize diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility is the responsibility of all board and staff of the Vermont Arts Council, and that our institutional work with these vital matters does not fall disproportionately upon those from historically underrepresented groups.
We can fulfill our mission of “cultivating and advancing arts and creativity throughout Vermont” with an intentional commitment to dismantling racism and working to become an anti-racist organization.
The Vermont Arts Council’s definitions
Inclusion: the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement of creating a culture of equal access and a sense of belonging for all those affiliated with the Vermont Arts Council.
Diversity: the extent to which the Vermont Arts Council has people from diverse backgrounds represented throughout the organization and provides programming that supports people from diverse backgrounds, particularly with respect to dimensions of race, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background and other areas of identity.
Equity: the existence of systems, practices and policies that allow everyone to be treated fairly within the Vermont Arts Council and by those supported by it. It also conveys a commitment to challenge any hierarchical status that determines access to opportunities, visibility, leadership, and support affiliated with the Arts Council.
Accessibility: the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement of providing equitable, effective, and universal access to people with the widest possible range of abilities, beyond legal compliance, for all those affiliated with the Vermont Arts Council.
What it means for the Council
By identifying and implementing specific strategies for promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within the organization, we will re-evaluate how we allocate our resources, and whose voices and perspectives we are recognizing through our work. Examining our grant programs and alliances, we will seek to foster anti-racism efforts with the cultural organizations we fund. We will support and lift up the voices of artists of color across Vermont.
Our work to create an inclusive arts environment for everyone builds on our long standing commitment and focus on accessibility for people with disabilities. Past steps have included offering guidance and technical assistance to arts and cultural organizations to make their facilities and programs welcoming to people of all abilities. Also, our I am a Vermont Artist interview series is a specific effort exploring how Vermont artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age.
In order to address systemic racial and cultural inequities in funding and in support for the arts and cultural sector, the Vermont Arts Council commits to taking the following specific actions:
What we have done
- Provided training and educational opportunities for our staff and Board that specifically address racism and biases
- Created and supported an IDEA working group consisting of board and staff members
- Reshaped grant review panel recruitment and processes to ensure they broaden the lens to be more diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible
- Researched and piloted an alternative application process (starting with Artist Development grants) to enable applicants to present themselves to their best advantage
- Adopted a practice that all Vermont Arts Council public events (virtual and in person) begin with a Land Acknowledgement statement
- Provided $27,000 in discretionary covid relief grants to the Clemmons Family Farm and the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association for their use in direct relief for their respective networks of artists
- Provided ADA and accessibility training to all board and staff members in December 2020
- Added an implicit bias segment to the orientation with external grant panelists
- Established the ongoing I am a Vermont Artist interview series and exhibits to amplify the work of diverse creatives in Vermont
- Established a network of advisors representing people of diverse ethnicity, race, gender identity, religion, ability, and age
What we are currently working on
- Revising our employee handbook and personnel policies (in collaboration with the Vermont Humanities Council) with a rigorous emphasis on IDEA practices
- Exploring ways to offer anti-racism training and resources to Vermont arts and cultural organizations
- Adopting a policy to ensure compensation and pay fair rates to community members for labor on advisory groups, panels, and for providing other services
- Developing a policy to ensure all Council public events (virtual and in person) are held in accessible locations with accessible programmatic accommodations offered
- Holding ourselves accountable by publishing outcomes and learnings in our Annual Report
- Envisioning broader strategies and develop a board and staff-wide process for future goal-setting
- Making ongoing IDEA training and professional development opportunities available to board and staff members
- Expanding and revising our grantmaking processes to be more accessible and inclusive
- Improving language access in the Council’s programs and communications
We have gathered these links and resources to assist artists and organizations pursuing IDEA work. This list is ongoing and updated periodically. Do you have a resource you’d like to suggest? Let us know at [email protected].
- Accessibility resources and information compiled by Council staff
- Dismantling Racism Works‘ online workbook offers a variety of analysis, action tools, and other resources for racial equity work
- The Native Governance Center’s guide to Indigenous land acknowledgement
- Grantmakers in the Arts’ Black Arts & Cultural Funding and Justice Resource Hub amplifies funds and resources that explicitly center Black artists, cultural communities, and experiences
- Anti-Racist Art Teachers offers a variety of resources, media, and curricula for art teachers working from an anti-racist perspective
- The State of Vermont’s Racial Equity Advisory Panel provides racial equity resources, including an Action & Allyship Guide with primers on many equity-related topics
- Inclusive Arts Vermont offers resources and services for making the arts accessible to children and adults with disabilities
- Vermont Abenaki Artists Association promotes regional Indigenous arts and offers professional development resources for members
- The Abenaki Arts & Education Center shares Abenaki educational resources with classrooms across N’dakinna (an Abenaki word meaning roughly “my homeland”)
- The Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity offers training and consulting services to help make Vermont a welcoming place for all, and particularly for people of color
- The Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte is a center for African-American/African diaspora arts and culture and offers networking and opportunities for Vermont’s Black artists and culture bearers
- The Vermont Coalition for Ethnic & Social Equity in Schools develops and promotes ethnic studies, disability studies, Native American Studies, and LGBTQIA curriculum and pedagogy for all Vermont students
- Out in the Open in Brattleboro connects and supports rural LGBTQ+ people and offers resources and toolkits for building rural social justice movements
- The Pride Center of Vermont offers training to help organizations better support their LGBTQ+ community members
IDEA Advisory Network
Established in June 2022, our IDEA Advisory Network brings together creative leaders, community organizers, and working artists with expertise and lived experience in pursuing social justice in and through the arts. Meeting twice a year and consulting the Council as needed, the network helps set and pursue our IDEA priorities and disseminate the work to diverse communities.
- Judy Dow
- Vera Escaja-Heiss
- Samuel Kọ́láwọlé
- Vera Longtoe Sheehan
- HB Lozito
- Toby MacNutt
- Justin Marsh
- Sha’an Mouliert
- Jericho Parms
- Heidi Swevens
- Tamara Waraschinski