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Using arts and culture to advance equity and inclusion

May 3, 2017

By: ArtPlace America

Inclusive Dubuque is a local network of leaders from faith, labor, education, business, nonprofit, and government dedicated to advancing justice and social equity in their communities and they have kindly made this resource available for all of us. Very inclusive of them - thanks Dubuque!

The network has formed sector groups to understand and tackle equity-related challenges in education, economic wellbeing, transportation, safe neighborhoods, health, housing and arts and culture. Community members have joined these groups and are using the results of the equity profile to act. They believe that all activities within other Inclusive Dubuque sector groups can be enhanced by using the arts and culturally-engaging activities to connect residents more closely to their community. We believe this to be true everywhere. Creative, arts-based interventions can energize residents and activate them to get more involved in community affairs. Residents from all backgrounds can be drawn into conversations about housing, the economy, safety, or health through thoughtful, interactive artistic interventions.This toolkit highlights successful examples of how arts and culture was utilized in multiple sectors in equity initiatives. Examples from communities both far and near provide a resource for how Dubuque could engage the community through arts and culture to make a more welcoming, inclusive community.

Using art to encourage excitement about STEM
Read about Matters Learning Playground, a nonprofit that fuses art, science and technology into adventures that inspire creativity among people
of diverse ages and backgrounds. Matters learning
adventures are carefully and deliberately designed around the belief that education should facilitate authentic learning experiences that embrace the interconnectedness of the real world and promote fluid exploration of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

And check out Loveland in Colorado who have developed innovative live/work spaces for artists which have become a catalyst for neighborhood development - combining affordable housing with creative workspaces and community-use facilities in Colorado’s rural communities.

Arts conquers disruptive construction
In St. Paul, artists created increased visibility and interest in businesses during disruptive construction projects.  “Irrigate” is an artist-led creative placemaking initiative pioneered by Springboard for the Arts, an economic and community development organization for artists and by artists. The program engaged the arts to offset the negative impacts of street construction, which often hampers activity and local businesses, by activating artists as community leaders and developing partnerships between them and local business owners. The project team created a toolkit that clearly lays out how the arts can help turn a ubiquitous challenge into positive outcomes. Businesses that participated saw increased visibility and interest within the community during this time.

Culturally relevant
Culturally-relevant art projects made connections along transportation corridors in Nashville when The Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization
(MPO) engaged a local Latino services organization in planning a corridor with a new bus line.
The MPO partnered with Conexión Américas, a nonprofit that aims to integrate Latino families in all aspects of life in Middle Tennessee, to connect with Nashville’s growing Latino community. Conexión Américas has long integrated arts and culture in its outreach work to reach more immigrants, refugees, Latino families and individuals in Nashville. Artists Jairo and Susan Prado, developed a vision for a colorfully painted, bilingual crosswalk to connect the community center with the local bus stop and solidify the corridor as a home for the Latino community.

Storytelling for health
In Minneapolis, performing arts is helping to connect foreign- born residents to critical healthcare services. The Mixed Blood Theatre is in the Cedar
 Riverside neighborhood, which boasts 42% foreign-born residents with a majority of the newcomers hailing from Somalia. Among the many adjustments that immigrants make, one that is particularly di cult to navigate is the American health care system. Many newcomers are le in the dark when it comes to making decisions about their health because of economic hardship, fear that cultural norms will be misunderstood, or even Islamophobia. The Mixed Blood Theatre artists engage community residents using documentary theatre, non-traditional health fairs, and intergenerational storytelling to become advocates for their health.

Read about these great examples and more in a free download of this report.