Black Arts in Tough Times

Artsjournal linked to a great article in The Root on Black dance companies surviving in this economy. The opening paragraph says:

You can find thrilling black dance companies in every part of the country, a fantastic improvement over the situation 50 years ago when dancers of color could hardly find a professional troupe to join.

I recently had a discussion about the state of African-American arts organizations, particularly theaters, and it seems like the situation is pretty rough. There’s as much diversity within the African-American arts community as there is outside it – everything from multidisciplinary presenters like 651 Arts to more traditional theaters like New Federal Theater, not to mention ensembles as different as Universes and Urban Bush Women and much more. But while Broadway is courting African-American audiences (according to the NY TIMES) it seems like culturally-specific arts organizations are facing not only economic hardship but organizational and existential challenges.

Is the perception of mainstream success having an impact on culturally-specific arts organizations? Is it impeding their ability to fundraise? Is it making it harder for them to demonstrate impact and relevance? The ecology of the arts world requires breeding grounds for new voices and new forms – if these culturally-specific African-American arts orgs go away, what will the impact be?

We don’t yet live in a post-racial world, but the conversations around identity politics have continued to grow, change and evolve. Is this happening more in the mainstream than at the grassroots level?

Do you have thoughts? Opinions? Let us know in the comments section!!

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