ARTS AND CULTURE

MacArthur-Driehaus Grantees Participate in Anti-Racism Training Series

January, 2022
Chicago rapper, poet, educator, and actor Mykele Deville. Photo by Zakkiyyah Najeebah courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR.

General-operating grants aren’t the only means of support for small and mid-sized organizations through the MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Now in its 20th year, the MacArthur-Driehaus program also funds professional development opportunities selected by grantees themselves, and an annual Training Series that consists of progressive workshops complemented by one-to-one consultation. Past Training Series — offered free of charge to MacArthur-Driehaus grantees — have supported skill-building in board development, communications, financial management, individual donor fundraising, marketing, social media, and more. Last year, the Driehaus Foundation engaged Enrich Chicago to lead its 2021 Training Series.

Leveraging its existing approaches, curricula, materials, and methods, Enrich provided roughly 50 arts leaders, representing 21 arts and culture organizations, with strategies and tools to build upon and deepen their commitments to anti-racism. The benefits to these organizations varied in relation to where each found itself within the broader anti-racist movement in Chicago’s nonprofit arts and culture sector — a movement accelerated in part by Enrich beginning its work in 2014 with support from the Joyce Foundation.

Leaders from Enrich shared some takeaways in conversation following the eight sessions and individual meetings in the series. “This change is emergent and iterative,” said Enrich Chicago director Nina D. Sánchez. “One of the things we’re thinking about is how our most commonly utilized instruments for assessment don’t always fit what it is we endeavor to accomplish with this type of programming.” Capacity considerations were also close at hand for MacArthur-Driehaus grantees, all of which have annual operating budgets below $500,000. “These organizations are, in many ways, run and staffed through volunteer means,” said Sánchez, noting how uncompensated opportunities can either exclude or exploit people of color. “It’s not lost on me that it can represent a significant reduction of capacity to do something like remove an unpaid internship program.”

During and after the Training Series, multiple organizations made changes to artist contracts, hiring practices, programming, public messaging — even, in some cases, their missions and visions. One grantee sent as its representative a company manager, “giving us the opportunity to enact immediate policy changes across our organization,” it reported.

Sánchez and her colleagues appreciated how Training Series participants came together as a cohort. “Recognition of the impact of building solidarity, as opposed to individual engagement, was really strong with this group,” said Molly Brennan, an actor and Enrich anti-racism organizer and trainer. “I noticed a real willingness to work across silos and roles,” added Enrich deputy director Vanessa de Guía. “There is an increased desire to create change, regardless where one is located in an organizational chart.” 

In concert with its strategy for ending racism, which centers individuals and day-to-day interactions, Enrich held space and time during group sessions for unstructured discussion and occasional dance breaks. Their playlist included a collaboration between cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Indigenous Canadian artist Jeremy Dutcher, and “You_re Enough” by rapper Mykele Deville, who grew up in Chicago’s West Side neighborhood of Austin. “Embrace originality: That’s what I learned from my city,” rhymes Deville. “You’re enough — I know it’s rough, but you must learn to trust. That’s a fact. Just adjust.”

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