On the latest episode of Basic Black, host Callie Crossley is joined by four guests from the arts community who are creating art and work throughout the pandemic and racial unrest. According to a report from the Mass Cultural Council, cultural organizations have reportedly lost $484 million in revenue, and artists right here in Massachusetts have lost around $20 million in personal income. Also, more than 30,000 jobs in the arts and cultural space have been impacted by the coronavirus across the state.
For artists of color, raising money has been a challenge along with race relations throughout the country and the art world. The City of Boston has provided over $800,000 for the arts, but is it enough to help both the artist and the artist-as-entrepreneur/business? How has racial reckoning altered the type of work they would consider or choose to do?
All of tonight's panelists have been impacted in different ways and are taking various approaches to continuing their art and/or art businesses. Joining Crossley are Tony Williams, founder and director of the ‘Tony Williams Dance Center’ in Jamaica Plain and home to the "Urban Nutcracker” and the Tony Williams Ballet; Michael Bobbitt, director, choreographer, playwright, and the artistic director of the New Repertory Theatre; Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga, founding artistic director of OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center; and Maurice Emmanuel Parent, co-founder and Executive Director of the Front Porch Arts Collective and a professor of practice at Tufts University for the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance studies.
Bobbitt, who is in just his second year as the artistic director at the New Reportory Theatre, shared how he’s been adapting to the "triple pandemic" — coronavirus, economic downturn, racial awakening — including instituting significant changes to the theatre's diversity, equity and inclusion practices. “When we say we’re not tolerating racism, we are really not tolerating racism," he said. "We mean what we say. We’re not just putting out solidarity statements. We’re putting out action steps.”
Dibinga reflected on how racial injutice and the response to it from the Black Lives Matter movement has only encouraged her OrigiNation students to work even harder, pouring their energies into organizing protests and marching. “The world needs to wake up. It needs to wake up and pay attention," she said. "Without us, the arts wouldn’t exist. They wouldn’t be the way they are without Black people, without African Americans.”
Watch the full episode of Basic Black here.