Back in 2011, Jen Graves, The Stranger's visual arts writer, eloquently documented the fumbling conversations about race in Seattle's arts community. People—particularly white progressive people—don't want to admit their biases have a role in creating barriers against people of color, Graves wrote.
The City of Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) wants to continue that conversation. The office launched a series of racial equity workshops in August to raise "community-wide awareness about existing inequities" and to ensure arts organizations had the training to discuss racial issues. The six workshops, one of which was simply titled "White Fragility," quickly sold out. (Four of the workshops were free to attend.)
The popularity of the sessions made the people's demands clear, Randy Engstrom, ARTS director, told The Stranger in August.
To meet that demand, ARTS officials announced they commissioned two more workshops, which will be held in late September. Carmen Morgan, national speaker on diversity issues and founder of artEquity, will lead the discussions, both of which focus on supporting people of color as organizations grapple with racial equity. The trainings are geared towards arts organizations of all sizes.
"Our hopes and goals are that after having these conversations our ARTS community are empowered to pick up the mantle, build bridges and forge a stronger, inclusive, equitable society," Engstrom told The Stranger in a follow-up e-mail.
Art has long been a method of creating awareness about social justice issues, Kathy Hsieh, ARTS's cultural partnerships and grants manager, told The Stranger via e-mail.
"One of the most effective ways to reach people and inspire them to care about important issues like race, class, education, housing, health and the environment is through the arts," she said. "In order to truly inspire people to want to take action on the most pressing issues of our time, you have to reach people’s hearts and the arts is often the most powerful way to do this."
The three-and-a-half hour workshops are titled "Centering People of Color in the Racial Equity Movement" and "Becoming Effective White Allies by Supporting People of Color."
But the workshops aren't cheap—they're a whopping $150 per training. The workshops, the first of their kind in the country, were commissioned by ARTS and ticket costs help compensate Morgan for her time and travel, a department representative explained. ARTS is offering scholarships to individuals and organizations who don't have the budget to attend the workshops, "but who are actively engaged in advancing race and social justice." Those interested in applying should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARTS is also working to schedule more workshops, some of which will be free, they said.