Diversity in the Arts

By 2040, Tennessee’s population is projected to increase by 25% and, like the rest of the nation, is both rapidly aging and becoming more diverse. Our state currently has the 3rd fastest growing Latino population in the nation. Over the next twenty-five years Nashville will become the most ethnically diverse city in the South, with a Latino population of 33%, in addition to Lao, Kurdish (the largest in the nation) and Sudanese communities, among other groups. This demographic influx is changing the state’s historic mix of Native American, African American and European American cultural expression.

Diversity in the Arts: From Mission to Practice, a special project collaboration between the Folklife Program and Nashville’s Global Education Center (GEC), is an inspiring short film that offers a “best practices” model for cultural diversity in arts programming, board development, and outreach to the underserved. Produced in 2012, the twenty minute film features footage from selected GEC programs, interspersed by interviews with staff, board, artists and participating youth. “What’s unique about the GEC is that it encompasses many cultures,” says Afro Latin dance instructor Steven Damo. “It’s truly global in both its mission statement and in its practice.” GEC director Ellen Gilbert notes, “We want artists to present their culture in their own way. You have to include their communities in the planning if you want it to be culturally sensitive.” With this goal in mind, the Global Education Center is unique among non-profit arts organizations in Tennessee in that the majority of its board is truly international and multi-cultural in scope and perspective. And somehow it all works, because everyone is dedicated to “show the commonalities of people,” as Ellen puts it.