Pittsburgh Diversity Bingo: What’s race got to do with art?

Tonight is the ever-fabulous Cultural District Gallery Crawl, where thousands of visitors descend on the cultural district to peruse art and party with friends. Incredible art will be showcased downtown at spaces such as SPACE Gallery, 707 and 709 Galleries, Future Tenant, Wood Street Galleries, and the offices of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, currently showing Reflective Locations, curated by D.S. Kinsel. Plus, there’s Interioractive, the after party with yet more music, art and partying starting at 10 p.m. at Wood Street Galleries.


You may wonder, “What’s race got to do with art?” Or, whether this question makes sense  in an allegedly “post-racial” America. But, by every statistical measure, the arts continue to suffer from a lack of diversity, especially at the level of leadership and funding. Major arts advocacy groups including Grantmakers in the Arts and Americans for the Arts have issued reports confronting this reality through studies and data reporting. At the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, we feel that it is up to all of us to answer calls to confront institutional disparities.

While this is a serious issue, we can look at and begin to address this topic with creativity and even humor. “Diversity Bingo” is a creative activity sponsored by Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, facilitator of the Coalition for Racial Equity in the Arts. To play the game, pick up your Diversity Bingo card at the 810 Penn Avenue stop on the Gallery Crawl (Art on the Walls at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council), check out the Reflective Locations show, get a refreshment of choice, and while you walk through the galleries downtown, fill it out as you see what you find, diversity-wise. Return your card to GPAC at the end of the Crawl, or tweet a photo of our completed card to @pghartscouncil #DiversityBingo. Random winners will receive a special prize.

Diversity Bingo enables visitors to tonight’s Gallery Crawl to be intentional and mindful about issues of difference – including race – while they walk around the Cultural District. It’s our request to remember diversity, equity, and inclusion when we make or experience art.

Diversity Bingo is a fun “heads up” regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. GPAC also encourages more serious awareness of equity issues internally through staff development, and encourages all artists and arts organizations to become more culturally competent about diversity and inclusion – factors identified not just for the creative industries but for the business sector as critical to innovation, sustainability, and the growth of the sector and also our region.

What might this look like? It means diversifying our staffs and boards, event attendees, and how we define what counts as art. It means exploring creative expression even when the style or tradition is unfamiliar to us. It means educating ourselves about what art signifies in different communities. It means being curious about people who are not similar to us and about stories that may at first seem strange. It means reassessing what we assume to be universal values that are actually culturally specific points-of-view.

This may sound impossibly idealistic. But at GPAC and other local arts and culture organizations, we know that it is possible to achieve greater equity by making small as well as big changes. For example, we put equity into action by diversifying grantmaking panels and we are seeing changes in the character and profile of which artists are funded. And we are mixing it up when we advertise job openings so our applicant pool can better approximate the diversity of our city.

It is true that this type of racial equity work can be serious business– but who says it can’t also be fun? Diversity Bingo signals that we can educate ourselves about equity in the arts even while we are enjoying local art making and building new communities in differently imagined spaces during the Gallery Crawl. Play Diversity Bingo, and add your distinctive voice to the conversation!

Have fun, tonight and help us make Pittsburgh arts even more exceptional by bringing creative attention to this important, real issue for our region.
You can also read the original version of this article on communityvoices.post-gazette.com

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