As society looks to address the ravaging effects of both COVID-19 and systemic racism, artists and arts organizations have an essential role in reimagining the future. In an Op-Ed for KCET’s Southland Sessions, Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director for UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, argues that while the products of the creative sector will undoubtedly continue as indispensable contributions for a thriving society moving forward, it is artistic process and creative problem solving that are most crucial to paving the way towards a vital and inclusive future. Edmunds argues that these intrinsic benefits of the arts are often overlooked, particularly in discussions about post-pandemic recovery.
To nurture this philosophy, arts organizations can and must help get artists to the recovery table. It starts with a commitment to what Edmunds calls “duty of care.” For Edmunds, what this looks like is maintaining transparency and cultivating pathways of information: “We have to provide as much information as possible to artists. We’re saying here’s what we’re seeing, here’s what we’re learning from various organizational/institutional vantage points, so that knowledge is transferred and shared rather than left dangling in the air. Artists will know what to do for their work and process and decision-making. The most important thing for them to know is that they’re not being abandoned—they are being sought.”
In addition, Edmunds says, arts organizations can proactively work to ensure that artists have a prominent voice in post-pandemic recovery conversations. She observes that it tends to be the most visible leader who is invited to the policy roundtable, but that person may not necessarily be best suited for the task at hand. To address this, she offers, “It’s incumbent upon us, as leaders, to understand the dynamic of what’s being sought, and to bring artists into the room with us.”