Artisan’s Commitment to Community, Refuge, and Justice: Our Work Ahead

DATE:  June 25, 2020     CATEGORIES:  Somerville Media Center Partnership

We are at an extraordinary moment of intersection in our history – as a nation and, frankly, as people of the earth. We have technologies at our disposal that would have bent the brain 100 years ago. However, grotesque racial disparities in health persist. We have enabled a quality of life that civilizations have striven for over the ages. And racial bias and inequality is pervasive throughout our economy, our politics, and across the cultural landscape of our nation.

A week ago, the Artisan’s Asylum Board partnered with me to signal a turn for the organization. In the wake of George Floyd’s celebration of life ten days ago, we intentionally committed our organization to a path of justice and inclusion. We said that we would work to identify and break apart our linkages and participation in systems that perpetuate white supremacy, foster racial bias, and reward the status quo.

As we approach Juneteenth tomorrow and celebrate Black Freedom with a strengthened sense of hope and purpose, it is time to get to work. I’d like to invite your participation.

To recap, we outlined five key initiatives:

  1. Redouble our efforts to ensure that Artisan’s board leadership always reflects the communities we aspire to serve.
  2. Place community justice, equity and inclusion in our strategic plan, ensuring that our programs fulfill these goals.
  3. Increase outreach to our peers of color in the arts, crafts, trades and tech – building alliances that identify, strengthen, and advance our shared goals.
  4. Work to transform our facility and our culture into a space free from institutional bias, where people of color are welcome to bring their whole selves and create freely.
  5. Identify and dismantle the infrastructure of privilege enshrined in our policies and practices.

Here are five ways I’d like to invite you to get involved at the beginning of this organization-wide transformation:

  1. Help to form and join a Taskforce on Race, Justice and Inclusionary Practice. Help us craft our agenda and put clear action behind our words.
  2. Join an ad hoc advisory group to review our draft strategic plan; help us enshrine justice, equity and inclusion within our organization goals and priorities.
  3. Make the Asylum a refuge. Work with me to rebrand, removing mental health and incarceration stigma. Support us as a refuge for inclusive creativity for all.
  4. Help to form and join a Welcome Committee. Help us craft an “All Are Welcome Here” agenda and identify ways to put clear action behind our words.
  5. Join us for a guided workshop on dismantling systemic racism and building up spaces that welcome Black and Brown artists. (I’m working on this, so stay tuned.)

I’m also open to your ideas. Some of you have mentioned scholarships and other forms of financial support to Black and Brown makers. We’ll take this to heart; and we must go beyond the financialization of our relationship with Biracial, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). What else can we do? More important: what can you do to remake the Asylum, transform the place we love into a culturally rich, artistically vibrant and fundamentally just space for makers?

I would love to hear your ideas – this is a time for mighty self-reflection and deep creativity.

And I understand that this is difficult work. Not all of us feel equally prepared to take a step forward.  Please know that there is no rush; evolve into this work. Please, just don’t get in the way.

If you’re ready to get to work on these or any other activity that you feel will advance the goals we’ve outlined, please reach out to the Executive Director, Lars Hasselblad Torres at ed at artisansasylum dot com and we’ll get started.