CEO Skinder Hundal reflects on the Creative Case for Diversity, as explored in recent Arts Council England discussions, where Skinder was also a panellist
In the black cube of Hyson Green, inner city Nottingham, at New Art Exchange we breathe, sweat and bleed the ‘black bricks’ that symbolise our foundation ‘to stimulate new perspectives on the value of diversity in both art and society’. As a building, NAE stands strong, representing solidity and a sense of purpose and longevity. Our motto is to ‘think and deliver the new’ and exchange art in new ways in a context where the ‘street never lies’. We see diversity as an opportunity to represent unheard stories and transform the landscape, be that leadership, art product or audience ownership. Decisions about what is made and by who still feel exclusive, guarded in a cosy and comfortable arts fraternity club not making way for new talent fast enough.
Although there has been progress, there are still myriad gaps in how the art ecology grasps and represents minority identities with their subjective truths, truths like Aakash Odedra, contemporary kathak dancer, who combines ancient Kathak with visual digital culture, approaching 500,000 hits with his recently launched TED Global video.
The Creative Case conference, held on 8 December by Arts Council England certainly engaged the audiences in situ and online with a strong speech of intent and pragmatism from Sir Peter Bazelgette, Chairman of ACE. The morning also included an illustrious panel who shared their thoughts, chaired by Kirsty Lang of Front Row.
Baz’s message was clear, ‘we are in this together’, owning the ‘diversity opportunity’ to engage all especially the missing demographic. He also emphasised relying on specialist BME or Disability led organisations was fine but not enough to make the difference needed.
The nuanced knowledge needed to engage diverse communities is still missing in the arts sector. There are specialist organisations that deliver that engagement with diverse communities, yeilding opportunities to collaborate with them. It would be folly not to, but move away from tactical one-offs into more mature and strategic relationships with clear long term goals, with adequate resources in place.
A project I am championing with the CEO (Tim Desmond) of Galleries of Justice Museum, Nottingham, is aiming to engage on this level. NAE is supporting the museum to think ‘diversity’, working with the NAE senior and creative team to genuinely engage the community in a new programme, Get Up Stand Up. The relationship intends to engender strategic depth in: leadership; art production; programming; and audience engagement with culturally diverse communities. GoJ, with NAE’s support, will aim to fast track change and instigate real impact.
If we want success we need to instigate new action with courage and experimentation, where new dreams, thoughts and activities oscillate together, with intent. Also key, will be to unlock the missing, yet talented, cultural representations who are given genuine power to make a difference shifting the margins to transform the centre ground, so the space, our gallery, within the place, its location, one day will combine, to create a dialogue, enabling the cycle to begin again.
CEO, New Art Exchange
image: detail of Museums Association, 5 January 2015
original web article can be found here