Diversity speaks louder than words!

This is the english translation of the article that LinC participants wrote for the annual Cultuur in Beeld-conference.

This year, Culture in the Picture, the annual Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) cultural sector conference is devoted to diversity. Although State Secretary Rick van der Ploeg already highlighted the issue in the late nineties, diversity in the cultural sector in 2016 still lags far behind the changing demographic composition of the population. Diversity cannot continue to be a mere item on the agenda. With our slogan ‘Diversity speaks louder than words!’ we, participants of LinC (Leadership in the Cultural Sector), call the cultural sector to action.

This is necessary. Almost 22% of the population has at least one parent born outside of the Netherlands. You would expect the six state-funded cultural subsidy bodies to mirror society. Just 9.5% of staff, committee and supervisory board members have foreign heritage, half of what we see in society as a whole. A paltry 6.5% of Culture Council advisors have a ‘different’ background; the Academy of Arts fares even worse, at 4%. If these percentages were of employees with a non-western background, they would be even lower. Not only are those who distribute the finances are too white, the creatives, audiences and output are too.  Too often we hear: “With everything that is made and presented I think: this is not about me”.

The cultural sector will not be fit for the future if it proves incapable of connecting with a diverse audience, if it cannot offer other perspectives or artistic pluriformity, and if it continues to be ethnically homogenous, made up overwhelmingly of ‘autochthon’ creatives and organizers.

To ensure we get further than good intentions, we -a diverse group of cultural professionals- make this call for action:

  • State funding bodies, you are not doing enough. Don’t lie back. Instead, embark on an active programme of stimulation -as the Art of Impact previously – with designated funding to promote diversity in output and reach. Inspire challenging projects, search out new initiatives, share best practice and facilitate new partnerships. Go the extra mile to support these projects.
  • Sector, look in the mirror! You often claim to be at the forefront, but you’ve been lagging behind for years. Are you still in touch with today’s society?
  • Promoters, programmers, don’t be lazy; stimulate your audience to look further than the end of their noses! Surprise them with talented artists, with new stories. Make strategic connections and take down barriers so that your audiences will swell with people you have neglected for years. If you don’t have the necessary expertise, hire it. Dare to take a critical look at your personnel policy: do we routinely choose people who are like us or do we dare to take a step outward?
  • Creatives, you have to allow diversity into the heart of your practice and artistic processes. Diversity has more to do with curiosity and artistic innovation than percentages. Expand your network and your sources of inspiration. It is especially important in these times of increasing segregation that today’s story is drawn from different perspectives.
  • Cultural educators, make diversity integral to your projects so that they will be accessible and appealing to all students. You connect with your future audience, your future makers and your own vitality through education. Cherish this. Art Institutions, connect with vocational education and coach talented people of colour to the top. The higher the education, the less culturally diverse the students; this really could be different.
  • Minister Bussemaker, the Cultural Diversity Code is a good start, but is as yet empty words. Though much referred to, it is not evident in the results. Connect a mechanism of implementation to the code and attach consequences to the results. Ask the Culture Council to develop a considered recommendation addressing these issues and… invite us to the ministry to reflect actively with you.

On behalf of LinC: Marjorie Boston, Klaartje Bult, Paul Cornelissen, Pien van Gemert, Matthea de Jong, Gabbi Mesters, Myriam Sahraoui (participants of Mede namens LinC 3)