Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Arts
Published October 28, 2022
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Arts
by Mark Salinas
Thirty years ago, as a second-generation immigrant and the very first person in my family to attend a four-year college, I meekly accepted a college work study assignment as an exhibition preparator at my university art museum. This memory of awe, intimidation, and determination in my youth to handle, display, and care for art and culture acts as my moral compass today in guiding my values, decision-making, and priorities as a public art consultant.
Forecast Public Art, where I serve as Senior Project Manager, is a non-profit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota whose mission is to activate, inspire, and advocate for public art that advances justice, health, and dignity. We work locally and nationally in both urban and rural locations developing arts and culture master plans, public art policies, and creative workforce development for municipalities, counties, and states.
Arts and culture represent more than my career, it's my DNA and without much surprise, it’s where I dedicate much of my spare time. For my first Art Views column, I am excited to share some personal passion-driven work here in Nevada that aspires to advance ongoing efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts.
My philosophical overview is that CREATION, EDUCATION, and RELATION are three curatorial components necessary in building equitable and accessible public arts programming. These are, I believe, the same shared fundamental elements needed in building a thriving, livable environment where people feel safe and welcomed to participate as valued contributors to that society. In many demonstrated ways, good public arts programming serves as a good social architecture — drafting individual opportunities, structuring community awareness, and casting deep foundations of inter-connectivity.
This October, I had the honor of presenting the keynote address at the Nevada Museums Association (NMA) annual convention at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City.
Built in the 1880s, this location seemed a resonating environment for Nevada museum professionals to convene and discuss the theme of Going Further Together, which included topics of national social history and current institutes’ efforts in making public governance, collections, and programming more inclusionary.
The NMA is a non-profit membership organization made up of statewide museum staff as well as businesses and individuals interested in museums. The 2022 conference was held entirely in-person after two years of remote and hybrid presentations.
Opening remarks by NMA President Jennifer Kleven — who also serves as the Chair of the Las Vegas Arts Commission - was followed by pre-recorded welcome videos from both Senator Jacky Rosen and Governor Steve Sisolak. Added to this notable lineup was Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak, attending the conference as program partner of my keynote address on ‘The First Lady Presents...’
“Diversity and culture is very meaningful to me, but more so is the education and acceptance of social equity which allows all peoples, in Nevada and beyond, to feel invited, welcomed, and safe. Our program stands by these values and extends opportunity to be seen, heard, and celebrated. From artifacts to storytelling, from architecture to elders - history is all around us. And through history we see our future potential.”
— Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak
‘The First Lady Presents...’, an on-line arts and culture review of contemporary Nevadan artists paired with artifacts from the collection of the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. This arts and history education initiative was launched in 2019 alongside Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak and the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.
Bi-monthly, the museum’s curatorial team selects an artifact as part of their Curator’s Corner, an on-line museum educational program. Once that artifact is selected by their team, I then research and juxtapose a Nevadan artist to the artifact, creating curatorial essay content for ‘The First Lady Presents...’. I approach this search with a lens of equity; elevating outstanding talent from historically underserved communities.
Sometime my essay comparison to the museum artifact is easily identifiable - perhaps a similarity in material, and at other times that comparison is more nuanced - perhaps comparing a similarity in process. I keep records of featured artists to ensure a spectrum of gender, age, geographic location, ethnicity, ableism, and artistic mediums.
Every essay includes an introduction by the First Lady where she concludes her salutation with the following statement:
“Join us on this insightful and inspiring journey and together as Nevadans, let us study the past, honor the present, and envision the future.”
The essays are then posted and archived onto the Nevada State Museum in Carson City website with permission of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. In addition to this online program, the First Lady hosts an art exhibition and reception for featured artists every September in the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City. For the event, the curatorial team from the Nevada State Museum in Carson City holds a pop-up presentation of featured artifacts and the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs generously contributes a beautifully designed and printed program featuring imagery and information on the artists and artifacts.
This September our second annual exhibition featured Loretta Burden (Fallon), Melissa Melero-Moose (Hungry Valley), David Gamble Jr. (Reno), and Angelo Monroy (Reno), and Theo Tso (Las Vegas Indian Colony). Their artwork was installed - or performed, as was the case with two of the artists - in the Mansion for public viewing and enjoyment until March 1, 2023.
Since our program launch in February 2021, ‘The First Lady Presents...’ has been shared locally, regionally, and nationally in both Chinese and Spanish news publications resulting in artist interviews, television features, state museum acquisitions, and art sales. Of course, one of our favorite milestones was having the artists featured on PBS Reno's ARTEFFECTS Season 7, Episode 709.
I hope you will agree Going Further Together is the best way forward in creating diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts for Nevada.
This PBS Reno series delves into the local arts scene, looking at the lasting impact the arts have in our communities and beyond.