Open Dialogue IX
San Jose, California
Ethnic Organizations—Do They Exist to Not Exist?
Convener: Leslie Ito
Betty Garza, Adrianne Devereux, John Seto, Lawrence Thoo, Ann Woo, Wun Mark—COA, Lori Robishaw, Sreekala Sripathy, Cheryl Platen, Eric Hayashi, Victoria Moreland, Doreen Mitchum, Papo De As, Alice E. Valdez - MECA/Houston, Lucero Arellano, Mayumi Tsu Takawa, Millie Lee, Victoria Bomberry, Mai Bui, Sylvia Lowe, Shirley Sneve
Case Study: An Asian-American filmmaker pulls his film from an ethnic specific film festival that has been supporting his work since the beginning of his career, in order to screen at a mainstream festival who demanded a Southern California premier.
- Must cultivate community minded artists.
- Must recognize competition in the field and learn how to work together—develop a professional code of ethics—presenters use a 40–mile rule.
- This question speaks to the organization's mission; has it changed? Must pay attention to mission, long range vision and values?
- This questions affects certain disciplines more than others: theaters, presenters, media etc.
- Make specifications in a contract to make sure artists cannot pull out.
- Ethnic organizations as incubators of talent, helping to cultivate new artists.
- Once they have made it, it's their turn to give back to those organizations that helped build their careers—David Henry Hwang is a great model for this.
- In an ideal world, yes, ethnic organization should exist to not exist, but we are not even close to that.
- Ethnic art is popular, but who is going to support the work when we are not the flavor of the month? Not the mainstream organizations!
- We must cultivate artists with deep community values so that they will give back once they have become successful. This is value generational?
- Sometimes connecting back with artists that we have helped is an issues of practicality. We do not have the resources to continue these relationships. We need to be more like universities and their alumnae association model. This is an important investment to make.
- Setting expectations with the artists as far as continuing the relationship is critical.
- Some artists like August Wilson will bring their crews up with them. We need more artists like this!
- Even if it was a perfect world and opportunities were there for our artists, it wouldn't mean becoming extinct. It would mean that we can focus on the art, what we are passionate about, and we can spend less time on the struggle, the fight. So no, we do not exist to not exist!
- Wonder if this mentality of existing to not exist is a relic of the 70's? The arts organizations that grew out of the various social movements continue to have this struggle mentality-founded in response to lack of access and recognition. It would be interesting to see if organizations that were born in the 80/90's have the same of different mentality.
- How about content… is content changing with this new generation? Yes, more fusion arts, globalization of culture. This has been a rapid change. There is no particular connection between who is doing the art form and the actual art form (i.e. Asian Hip Hop; Korean opera singers singing in Italian). We are also morphing forms here in America—women playing taiko and in Mariachi. How are we responding to these changes?
- We are also affected by gentrification and how that changes the communities we work with. The fluidity we endure also affects our mission.
- Funders are not changing as quickly as the field and the art form is.
- Where is the new generation of funders? They are investing in different ways—wanting more involvement.
- Sometimes we forget that the art of running an organization is about building relationships.